At Little Bay Primary School in Westmoreland, where I am Principal, we have a lot of communities that are far off main roads and cannot be reached by normal transport. Some of our students may not always have internet access, and with school being closed they are even more disadvantaged.
Now is the time to think of different ways to get things done! So I started to use a motorbike taxi to deliver and pick up printed homework assignments once a week to the students who cannot get online.
I remember the first time when I rode up on the bike the children were like “Oh my God!” and would run to the bike. We put their names on the homework packages, and especially during this time of COVD-19 something as simple as that can make them feel special.
Leaving no child behind
Parents too have been excited – they say no one has ever reached out to us like this.
We do our best to ensure that no child is left out of teaching and learning. We take our school register with us and with each delivery we mark the children present as if we would for school. The next week we pick up the work and in the meantime teachers can reach out to the students by phone.
Through this process the children still feel like they remain part of a learning community.
Thanks to partnership
How it came together was simple: a partnership between the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, the school, the parents and the community. I especially want to thank our Senior Education Officer Patricia Haughton in Region 4. I emailed her all the work for students and while she was at home, she got them printed and organised at her office where I could pick them up. Back in the community, I asked one of the bike taxis to help me deliver.
Truth is we’ve always tried every means and method available to reach parents and engage our students. For our leadership at the school, equity is extremely important, and it’s something we must continue to work on even beyond COVID-19.
There is a mindset that rural schools are distant, but the reality is that it doesn’t have to be that way. For instance, we ensured we got funding from stakeholders to have EduFocal as a timetabled course. Every student at the school has an access code. So, when COVID-19 happened to us and we met as staff we could take some comfort in knowing that we were ahead.
Ensuring equality of access
We must recognise that not every child has access to the internet. Before COVID-19 our computer teacher Romaine Penado from the Rockhouse Foundation would come in on a Saturday and those children who can’t access at home come to the lab to use computers there – we also arrange for their transport.
Some people may see us as ‘way out inna bush’, but we are showing up, and thanks to supporters like the Rockhouse Foundation, we can keep improving. I’ve been here about two years, and at 32 years old I am one of the youngest Principals in this region, and during this time the school has moved from being rated unsatisfactory to satisfactory.
When you partner with a local school like ours you are partnering with the future. Three years ago, this may not have been the school people would want to highlight, not the school of choice. COVID-19 is testing us as educators, but we are determined to pass, and with distinction!
What is UNICEF doing?
For more information about our response to COVID-19 assisting government and non-governmental organisations to protect the rights of children, and to access resources for parents, visit our webpage dedicated to this emergency: unicef.org/jamaica/coronavirus-disease-covid-19
This post is part of a series looking at how COVID-19 is impacting children and families and also people who are addressing their challenges. Post your #COVID19diaries story to social media and tag @unicefjamaica to be featured!
👏🏿 Little Bay Primary helps rural students do distance learning whether they have home internet access or not. Computer teacher Romaine Penado explains.
— UNICEF Jamaica (@UNICEFJamaica) April 21, 2020