2917178
Tara Ramsewak, right and residents of Beach Road in Chatham, tell Guardian Media about how the lack of access to digital platforms is affecting their children’s education.

In Chatham Village, constant work is hard to come by for villager. No work means no pay. No income means no access to utilities like running water and electricity. No electricity means their children are now at a learning disadvantage. It’s not as if the power would help anyway, as there are no tablets or desktops to be found in their humble homes where you can hear the waves roar and the sound of children playing – children who should be inside learning.

For Nadraka Henry and her three children, sometimes a missed week of school assignments is the norm. Henry does not have the funds to constantly travel to the school to get the printed paper-based assignments offered to students who don’t have online access. And when she does, there is only one phone in her household with a cracked screen to share.

“They used to get the work on my phone but how my phone damaged, it can only make and receive calls, it hard, believe me, it’s challenging. You can’t make out anything on the cracked screen but they still try and share the phone one day in, one day out,” Henry said as her daughter Candice sat near her attempting to study.

A few houses down, a grandmother of five, Margaret Gopaul, said it is heartbreaking to see her little ones suffer.

“They always arguing and quarrelling when they have to take turns, and that takes up a lot of time. They say ‘grandma we could do it now?’ And I say just now, give it a little half an hour again.”

Gopaul also shares one cell phone amongst her grandchildren.

Several other parents in the village came out when they saw Guardian Media in the area. Another grandmother piped up while we were speaking with Gopaul.

“I’m very very worried because I need them to get a good education and we need some help!” she pleaded with her two granddaughters at her side.

And while the devices are sorely needed for at least 25 children along Beach Road, the lack of electricity on the majority of their properties compounds their problems.

“Well, right now, without the current, I have a little power bank that I have to send by the neighbour to charge just to get the work for them and it does be hard to even send it because people could get fed up of you, so I will get two or three days of work for the week and when I go to work I charge the power bank,” said Tara Ramsewak.

Ramsewak’s grandson put down his bicycle and displayed his mathematics copybook. In it, his teacher commended him for excelling in his work despite his challenges. And while Ramsewak is proud, she’s worried he won’t be able to keep up in the long run.

“Right now, he has a week’s work back up on him, plus this week’s. I can’t afford the electricity at the moment because it’s just me alone, very much me alone.”

Going further from the main road and deeper into the tall grass, we come upon the Phillip residence. There’s no electricity there either. That means their daughter Letisha must leave the village to visit a family member to access the internet. Her mother Lee-Ann Phillip cannot accompany her because she cannot afford the $30 passage for both of them to travel.

“You never know what could happen because sometimes it is people you know doing harm to your children, I don’t know if she reach safe because sometimes the phone have to charge,” Lee-Ann Phillip said while holding on to the crutches she needs to walk since suffering a stroke.

COVID-19 has hit this village hard. Residents who were once struggling are now suffering. Whatever little they have goes towards survival, leaving nothing for education.

If you’d like to help the children of this village, residents can be reached at 328-5969/301-0164. Remember, if you don’t get them at first, try again, as the phone battery may be dead.