Women step into the arena: Educating children at home

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Women step into the arena: Educating children at home

Imani Duncan-Price

Sunday, March 22, 2020

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If ever there was a time when gender balance in political leadership would be invaluable it is now. It is a whole new paradigm with the onset of COVID-19 here in Jamaica and the wider world. In any crisis, effective leaders often say hope for the best but prepare for the worst. COVID-19 is now our very local and global crisis.

This pandemic will require active participation and leadership from women. In Jamaica, 48 per cent of households are headed by women and in majority of households with two parents, the mother is the primary caregiver. Responsibilities now include the role of 'teacher'.

As a mother of three young children, I recently took on the role of teacher with the intense homeschooling that began last week as schools were shut down at short notice to stem the transmission of COVID-19. I salute the efforts of the Ministry of Education to keep the learning going for our children. Sincere gratitude to the many teachers who have soldiered on to learn how to use the e-platforms to enable online learning for children at home. And, to my fellow parents who have been trying their best to figure out the e-platforms to support their children maintaining some learning structure in their daily life, while holding on to your day job and dealing with the onslaught of COVID-19 news which triggers constant anxiety, my heart goes out to you. To the single mothers in Jamaica, special big up to you.

 

We Don't Have the Time or All the Tools

While it is that some parents can stay home to provide guidance to their child or children at the primary/prep school level, many parents have to work (at home or in the office) to keep an income going. The mandate seems to be for many schools to take the curriculum the children would pursue from 8:00 am to 2:00 pm, Mondays to Fridays, and translate it to online learning for parents to oversee.

This oversight actually requires teaching our children the concepts at hand, concepts which some parents just don't understand. This oversight also requires time to exercise discipline and structure to run the school day at home.

Parents cannot teach what they do not know. So while an inner-city mother does her best and goes to the nearby Internet café to print the class work sent to her via WhatsApp so her child can do the work, how much effective guidance can the child get? Furthermore, while some children have iPads and other tablets, many do not. Data access is also a challenge and will become more difficult as the economic crisis worsens across the middle class, working class and poor. Education is supposed to be the pathway out of poverty. However, the current approach just seems to reinforce inequality.

It is clear that this very intense period and the pressure that everyone is going through will worsen as schools will likely remain closed for longer than originally announced, as air and sea ports are now closed to incoming passenger traffic for 14 days.

 

Crisis-relevant Curriculum

I recommend the Ministry of Education designs a relevant 'Curriculum during a crisis'. For the basic and primary levels, this curriculum would focus only on the core subjects and physical activity indoors, keeping in mind the different types of homes or yards in which our children live. This curriculum would also include mental health and well-being modules for both the child and the parent. Parents should be provided with simple, clear guidelines on how to teach their child/children the core subjects. Given that high school students have to sit external exams, the pared-down curriculum should be designed appropriately.

The Ministry of Education should also focus on core tools that allow teachers across basic, primary, prep and high schools to teach. This includes customised television channels per grade for a full day of school education for each group. Zoom or another online tool can be used to actually hold classes online for live teaching to complement the classes on TV. Government can pay for the online platform access in the back-end so students and teachers can utilise it free of charge.

Policy solutions need to reflect the reality of our situation. We need to be nimble and responsive to that ever-changing reality for our women, men, girls, and boys, given the impact of COVID-19.

In Part 4, I will speak to 'Reproductive Independence for Young Women'.

— Imani Duncan-Price is a PNP spokeswoman on industry, competitiveness and global logistics, chief of staff for the leader of the opposition, a World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, Eisenhower Fellow and former senator. E-mail feedback to fullticipation@gmail.com

 

 


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