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Jalila Best. Form 1 student

Akash Samaroo

Children in Laventille are missing school but not in the sense of an inability to access learning material, they long for in-person classes once again.

They told Guardian Media, the digital platforms are not helping them realize their potentials.

“I’m a visual learner. If somebody tells me to do something, I need plenty examples. I’ll need to see them to fully understand. If you send it by text, I won’t understand,” Form 1 student Hasinah Byron said.

The 11-year-old, like other Form 1 students, started secondary education via digital classrooms.

It means that for almost three months into the academic year, Hasinah is yet to develop any bonds with her classmates or teacher.

“In school I does usually talk and talk and ask the teacher a lot of questions but now with online classes I don’t like to talk to them every minute, but then since I don’t know the people in the class, I feel embarrassed to ask the teacher.”

A few streets away, 14-year-old Jaydon Solomon has similar challenges.

“I find the work harder to understand. When the teacher’s explaining the work, she just explains it once and that is it after that, and then you don’t get enough time to ask anything after because each class is one hour long,” Jaydon told Guardian Media.

The Form 1 student said he is not enjoying virtual classes.

“It’s lonely and boring. Normally I’m active and playing but now I’m inside all day. It’s not good.”

His loneliness was felt by others. In Morvant, 14-year-old Denzel Mundy sat on the steps to his grandmother’s house singing along to a track being played on his phone.

Singing is one of Denzel’s passions which he shares with his friends in school. But due to COVID-19 regulations, he is, for now, a one-man-band.

“Sir, online school not going too good you know. My friends and I used to walk home from school. We’d make jokes, play some instrumentals…I like to sing coming down the road.”

Denzel is usually an active student in class. He recounted many times he was the first to volunteer to answer questions in school. He tries to keep that reputation online but he misses the student interaction.

“So, if I was in class, and I didn’t know a word, you try to sound it out but if you’re not getting it, you look to your friend next to you and touch them on their shoulder and ask them. Sometimes they might get vex and say to leave them alone or another student would help you when they hear you get blank,” Mundy said while reminiscing with a smile on his face.

The workload is also an issue for some. Near the St Barb’s basketball court, another Form 1 student, Jalila Best told Guardian Media that she was struggling to cope.

“I struggling sir. Sometimes I have work until late in the night and I end up falling asleep while doing it. Even after one class, there’s another class and another until they give you a lunch period but even during that time you have to eat and try to finish some of the homework they give.”

Unlike the other stories in this series, there’s no call for donations but rather for educators to lend an ear. These children are monitored by the Roots Foundation and there is a high expectation of success from them.

But they too are not immune from the difficulties of receiving an education in the new normal. The challenges are multi-faceted and nationwide. Whether your house is on the southern coastline or five minutes from Port-of-Spain.