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Educational Challenges and New Realities

It has been two weeks since most of our schools have reopened and our students, teachers, parents, and administrators are all grappling to master a new reality.

We were ill-prepared to deal with the complexities of digital education on this scale and the initial problems have been challenging, to say the least.

The reactions of some of our citizens to the COVID-19 virus locally have exacerbated a life and death situation. The failure to wear protective masks, to practise social distancing and to ensure, as far as possible, that each one is doing his best to stop the spread of the virus, have meant, to some extent, that our children and young adult students cannot return to the familiarity, safety and the potentials for growth that the in-person school setting offers.

The country must now ensure that our vulnerable children are given every chance to maximise the possibilities that online learning presents.

In the first instance, lessons have to be designed to be as relevant, creative, and interactive as possible.  Students are more likely to respond positively to classes which are not simply aimed at delivering the curriculum, but which target their ability level and their interests.

The student, as always, is the most important stakeholder in the education process.  The stress levels that children report from loss of physical interaction with their classroom peers and from being expected to concentrate in online classes for several hours each day must be factored into the process.

After-hour lessons add to the student’s burden and should be firmly discouraged.

Without a doubt, this puts a heavy onus on the now purely online, distance educator. The teacher is also learning a new and sometimes puzzling and frustrating methodology and lesson delivery system.

Working from home, balancing domestic and professional responsibilities, and fulfilling the mandate of a demanding vocation are not easily accomplished.

The dedicated teacher is under a lot of pressure too and needs as much moral and tangible support as possible.

In addition to this, the dedicated teacher knows that there is no substitute for the interpersonal contact that students need and have become accustomed to expect, but which each educator must now strive to extend on a virtual level.

Parental involvement with the home-based learner poses its own dilemmas. The parent may struggle with time schedules and other responsibilities and these are magnified when there is more than one child and more than one educational level to deal with.

Parents whose incomes or physical and emotional circumstances make it difficult or perhaps impossible to provide for their children’s educational needs carry an even more painful burden.

Educational administrators are charged with providing guidance and support where they, too, are adapting to the unfamiliar. It is impossible to foresee every problem that can arise but as leaders, they must embrace and enhance the awesome and exciting possibilities that the nation must adopt to deliver an educational product which is superior to and more learner-friendly than the old and now possibly obsolete one to which we are accustomed.

As we ask God’s blessings on our Republic, may we all work together for His glory and for the benefit of our nation.