The post-COVID-19 classroom

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The post-COVID-19 classroom

Dudley C
McLean II

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

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As we begin to explore how best to reopen our economy, it behoves our educators, in preparation for the reopening of schools in September for the 2020-21 academic year, to initiate conversations in regard to the implementation of physical distancing and good hygienic practices to safeguard against any further outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus due to community spread in Jamaica.

Observable features during past school years include overcrowded public transportation, overcrowded classrooms, and inhibitions to the use of online platforms/mobile devices.

Most route taxis and minivans, in complaining about the cost of operations, packed our children like sardines in a tin. This unhealthy practice will be one of the first causes for the beginning of community spread that would find its way into our educational institutions. The police, along with the transportation authority, will need to ensure that our children travel to school in safe and hygienic conditions.

Our next problem is that most school plants are overcrowded and there is a shortage of classroom spaces to reduce attendance to a manageable teacher-pupil ratio. Hence, our educators need to explore mixed options; using both being physically present in classrooms and online learning platforms, perhaps on alternate days, as one of the solutions. Among the solutions should be the inclusion of not only tablets, but smartphones as learning tools.

Classroom furniture should be rearranged to ensure physical/social distancing and hand sanitisers should be installed, not only at the general entrances to the plants, but either at every classroom entrance or suitable central locations for access. Educational institutions cannot act on the assumption that their constituents can all afford sanitisers.

Over the years most parents were treating schools as free daycare/babysitting institutions to 'park' their children until the end of the workday. All parents must now begin to make arrangements to include the possibility of working at home, especially if they are unable to employ someone, on the days that their children may be required to attend schools via online platforms.

The encouragement from our head of state, Sir Patrick Allen, is timely at this point when he said: “Our experiences as a people from the hardships of slavery is what has given us that attitude of fight. We have experienced so many difficulties — poverty, privations, and economic challenges. We are not a passive people. I can only conclude that there is something in our DNA which tells us not to settle unless it's the best.” ( The Gleaner, May 11, 2020)

An exploration of the history of our black post-Emancipation teachers shows that we are a nation that has produced great educators who always found innovative ways to advance our educational development.

Our current COVID-19 experience has officially propelled the nation into the Digital Age. We cannot hide behind the notion that because the Internet was not written in the manual or constitution of any organisation then it is unable to function, and it would be a digression in human development if our educational institutions were to suspend the use of online platforms as part of the new normal in the education sector.

Our educators must apply the critical component of their training in tapping into their collective minds as problem-solvers in finding innovative ideas and making recommendations to the Ministry of Education, thus fulfilling Jamaica's pledge in “advancing the welfare of the whole human race”.

Dudley C McLean II writes from Mandeville, Manchester. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or dm15094@gmail.com.


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