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BNTU President Speaks on Challenges of Teachers Amidst the COVID-19 Pandemic

However, the COVID-19 pandemic compounded the challenges that the education system faces. But according to BNTU President Elena Smith, the past twelve months taught education stakeholders many lessons. In our extended interview with Senator Smith, she discussed some of those lessons with Love News.

Elena Smith, President of the BNTU: “I think we’ve learned that we are resilient people. I think that we’ve also learned that we have to embrace change. You know we can always stay in our comfort zone and do things the way we have been accustomed to doing this pandemic has taught us that, that while you may have been accustomed to for example your child going to school and you don’t have to worry about that child because the teacher is in charge and the teacher will do XY&Z the teacher will provide books, the teacher will provide pencils we have learned that that is not always true because as a parent I have a part to play and I have an important part to play. We have hopefully learned that parents as you said play a very important role in their children’s education and that has been manifested during this pandemic that while the child is at home with you you have to do your part to ensure that the child continues to learn. So we’ve learned those important aspects. I believe as educators we have learned that technology can be a good tool to get our children interested in learning. What I hope that we will continue to work on is to continue using technology in the way we’ve been using it during the pandemic because it’s going to be easy to return to the classroom and back to our regular chalk and talk sort of routine and forget about using technology. We have seen where our students a lot of them have enjoyed using technology to learn and so I am hoping that our schools, our management’s, our teachers will continue to incorporate technology in their classrooms as much as they can so that our children can continue to be accustomed to using technology and they can be interested. A lot of times we tend to think that if you bring those things to schools it’s a distraction so no phones, no tablets no nothing but now we see where it’s a learning tool so I am hoping that we would have learned that and we will continue to use that platform as much as we can if it is that we have to say maybe do three days at school and one day from home some kind of a blend that our children can continue to be involved.”

As we reported, close to four hundred schools have been approved to reopen in January for hybrid learning. The Ministry of Education continues to process applications and it is expected that more schools will be given the greenlight. Rural communities have shown a particularly great interest in hybrid learning. While this is a step in the right direction, Senator Smith made an appeal to parents and school managements to also get more involved in making education better.

Elena Smith, President of the BNTU: “For those children and teachers in the rural areas that was difficult because they don’t have access to Internet services for example they may be catching the Guatemala frequency for example and so that became difficult for them and it was just packages. A lot of parents were unable to help their children with those packages because they themselves don’t know how to do the work so we have learned a lot and we have seen where hopefully parents will remain engaged in their children’s learning, hopefully our schools will engage them more and our teachers will interact with parents more than they’ve been doing and we should be able to see 2022 not being as stressful as 2020 or 2021 were. We are hoping that we will see more parental participation, more parental support, more support from our management because it’s important that we get support for our physical structures at school from our management and not come out of our teachers pockets and I think overall we have seen and we have learned that we need each other. We can’t do everything on our own. You can’t leave teachers to be dealing with the education alone. We need all of our stakeholders to join together to make education successful.”

The Ministry of Education says that about eighty-five percent of teachers have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.