For the last month since the closure of schools due to the COVID-19 outbreak, Princes Town mother Crystal Charles has been struggling to put meals on the table to feed her nine young children.
Six of the children usually received meals through the school feeding programme. However, with the announcement by Education Minister Anthony Garcia that e-learning platforms have been rolled out for students, since schools are likely to remain closed until September, Charles, 33, and her mother Dianne Deoraj, 50, are worried about the children’s education.
This is because they do not have internet service nor do they own a television, computer or other electronic devices because they cannot afford it. These concerns regarding their children’s education were shared by several other parents who also have no access to internet service and/or electronic devices yesterday.
When Guardian Media visited Charles’ Cedar Hill, Princes Town home, she was not there. Deoraj said her daughter was at the hospital with her last child, aged six months, who was warded with a fever. Deoraj, who also lives in the apartment with her 61-year-old husband, was caring for her eight other grandchildren, ages 16, 15, 12, nine, seven, four-year-old twins and a six-month-old baby. Deoraj was at a loss as to how to help the children with their education.
“They (children) need help. They need school stuff, grocery stuff, they need a TV, they need a computer, they need the internet to get the work done for school. They need their education, which is very important for them and I would like them to get their education …”
Deoraj works part-time as a domestic worker and her husband is a security officer. But her daughter doesn’t work. Her daughter applied for Food Card but she was unsuccessful.
Her eldest child is a Form Three student and told Guardian Media he was doing well in school, with his marks ranging between 65 and 99 per cent. With absolutely no way to do his classes online, he said he was is worried about his education.
“Now that I don’t have a computer or a laptop or any access to internet it hard to cope with it. I will be really thankful if the government can assist and help in a certain way that I can benefit from it and my family…,” the boy, whose name is being deliberately withheld to possible prevent stigmatisation, said.
Unemployed single parent Tricia Forbes meanwhile has three children attending school. Her eldest son is due to sit the CSEC exams, her 13-year-old daughter is a SEA student and her other son is a Form Four student.
“I heard when they spoke about it on the TV about children getting this work on the internet and I say my daughter writing SEA too and she will not be able to do what the children are doing, so they (other students) will have more of an advantage over her,” Forbes told Guardian Media.
“The three of them will not be able to do any work because I don’t have no laptop, I don’t have no internet here.” Sending a message to the education officials, Forbes said, “Try to ensure all the children who don’t have access to these things they want to implement now, that they can try and go a little further in making sure all children get it. Some parents cannot afford and are just trying to get food for their children.”
Ste Madeleine mother of seven Nikitak Williams, who is also seven months’ pregnant, is also worried that her children will fall behind because they have no access to the online lessons.
Williams, a fast food outlet worker who lost her income after all restaurants were closed last week, has five children attending school, one of whom is a SEA student.
“He (son) is feeling real disappointed. It looking like next year they will write Common Entrance (SEA).”
Facing a similar predicament, Toradale resident Ariana Farrell said she wanted the authorities to ensure that her three children receive the same education as those who have access to the e-learning programmes. Noting that her 13-year-old son is also writing SEA, she said she was worried that when schools reopen and the exam is set he will not be prepared.