With schools making the switch to distance learning due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, parents across the island have had to take on the added task of assisting their children with their lessons at home, while juggling work and other duties.

Tourism worker from St. Ann’s Bay, Shenelle Dawkins, tells JIS News that when the Government announced the closure of school plants in March, and that instruction would continue remotely, she quickly pivoted and set out to help her two daughters adjust to the new reality.

Mrs. Dawkins says she immediately organised a work structure for her nine-year-old, Andriel Dawkins, whose lessons are sent via WhatsApp by her teachers at St. Ann’s Bay Preparatory.

“I have had several days when I am at home. So for Andriel who is younger, she actually has a set school time from 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. She has her work laid out for her. She sits around the dining table, she does the work. She takes a break at 10:30 a.m. and she does lunch at 12:30 p.m. There is no television, no cell phones, no tablet,” she shares.

She notes that 13-year-old Ashiel Davis, who attends Westwood High in Trelawny, has daily Zoom classes, and works on a schedule set by the school.

“She is very keen and I trust her to be a part of the classes. There’s a class schedule that was given to her with the time and subjects that are going to be on Zoom and the teacher for the respective subjects. So, I expect her to go online at the designated time and do the work.

What I will do is randomly ask her to show me the work that was done on a particular day, which she usually produces,” Mrs. Dawkins explains.

She tells JIS News that she is pleased that her children have been adjusting well to the flexibility of remote learning.

Mrs. Dawkins lauds the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information, as well as educators at the institutions the girls attend, for implementing several strategies to ensure that the children remain engaged.

“I do believe that the Government has, in fact, done an excellent job, so far, to make resources available for children of all different grade levels for them to be engaged during this COVID-19 crisis. Teachers have been forthcoming with information on a regular basis about where students can go to get access to different materials for them to continue their studies,” she notes.

“They are using Zoom to do classes online. Teachers are engaging us by using emails to send us schoolwork that can be done for three to four hours,” the mother of two adds.

Meanwhile, Monique Bailey of Moneague, St. Ann, tells JIS News that she has been working with her four-year-old daughter Jahzara Solan, who attends Camperdown Primary and Infant school, to improve her learning outcomes.

To supplement her daughter’s virtual lessons, Ms. Bailey incorporates YouTube videos and creates games to keep her intrigued and engaged.

“My child is a preschooler and she doesn’t always treat the home environment with the same well-behaved display that I am told that she has at school. Her home has always been her comfort zone and a place of fun, so in order to get her fully invested in the lessons, I have had to make them very interactive,” she says.

“Currently, I use YouTube videos based on the topic that is being explored as well as make games to encourage learning. For example [recently], they were looking at water transportation and I took her outdoors to source sticks to makes rafts as well as use paper to make boats. She is actively engaged and she enjoys them. She misses her friends though,” she notes.

Ms. Bailey says her daughter’s teacher has been very supportive, which she believes makes the remote learning experience a positive one.

She has high praises for the Education Ministry for “going the extra mile” to meet students’ learning needs at this time.

“Students are kept abreast of topics that would have been covered had it not been for COVID-19. I must commend the Early Childhood Commission, as they have uploaded lessons and activities on a daily basis to assist students,” Ms. Bailey says.

For her part, Shamara Preston of Priory, St. Ann, says since the closure of school, she has been able to meaningfully engage her six-year-old son, Kyjani Dawkins, with the support of his class teacher.

“I have not had many challenges. He is young, so I am able to manage and he is an only child. I find activities online, use printable worksheets and I have him complete them. Another thing that I do is that we go outside, so I include a lot of things within the environment to assist with the teaching and learning process,” she tells JIS News.