Tonight, there is still uncertainty regarding the arrival and distribution of the phablets that students were promised under the previous administration. Former Minister of Education Patrick Faber had reported to the media that the devices were already ordered and paid for, and the they were awaiting delivery. It has been close to eleven months since students have had to transition to distance learning and the phablets have still not been fully distributed. Love News spoke with the President of the BNTU Elena Smith to see if she would have an update on the situation.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “When we met with the ministry the president of BAPs had requested for those to be addressed because the students need it and for those students who would normally be taking those tablets at home to do their work and so we know that after that meeting that we had with the ministry I understand that some tablets were distributed. I can’t say right now what percent we are in terms of how much have been sent out but I know that an additional amount was distributed after we had that meeting with the ministry.”
Aside from the lack of devices and in some instances, the lack of internet, President Smith explained to Love News that some teachers are having difficulties in having the students complete their assignments.
Elena Smith, President, Belize National Teachers Union: “Remember now that some of these sessions are done virtually and so when they’re done virtually the teachers are able to see the students and they’re able to interact with them at some level but when the packages are sent home there’s no control. You know you have no control on whether these students will be completing this work, whether their parents will be doing it for them, another sibling. So they do have some students who don’t submit their work, they submit incomplete work, they don’t submit them on time and it’s difficult as I said it’s difficult for these teachers to have any level of control over that. You just have to hope that when the packages go home that the parents and the students would realize that they need to do the work and submit the work. So that has been an issue. Another issue has been as we’ve always said the matter of internet in some of these areas and even for some of the teachers you know while they’re in class you know how it goes your internet drops you have to be in and out, the students are kicked out because internet drops so they’re having that issue as well but they have been trying their best to see how they could reach students who have access to devices and can go on whether it’s Zoom or Google Classroom however they are doing it they have been trying their best to reach out to them in that way because that gives them a closer touch with their students via – you know I am able to see you, I can see my teachers, I can see my students, they can see me and you sort of feel that little closer connection through that means as opposed to just getting papers from my teachers. So those issues continue to happen for our students and our teachers and as you would expect people tend to think that because teachers are now doing a lot of online classes that it’s so much easier for them. Little do they know that it’s more difficult because you have to be searching to find these games and these little videos that you post for you students to ensure that they are relevant and at the student’s level. Let’s say you are teaching about healthy foods you may find something about that but it might not match the level so it all depends. So it takes a lot of time and some teachers are planning for virtual sessions as well as for packages so it’s like you’re doing double work. So it’s not as easy as people might think it is for teachers to be doing virtual classes right now.”