You probably won’t be blamed for not noticing the village of Kernaham during your drive along the Manzanilla Mayaro Road. After all your eyes may be fixated on the crashing waves, completely oblivious to the small village on the other side of the road – a village populated by people who sell their produce along that stretch. And that’s a reflection of how the residents feel. Neglected and unimportant.
“Nobody never come to help Kernaham Village,” mother of three Reshma Roopai told Guardian Media motioning to the deplorable state of their roads. But it’s not the worsening condition of their streets they were concerned about yesterday, but more so the decline in their children’s academic performances.
Kernaham, like many other rural villages in Trinidad and Tobago, is suffering from a rapid move to digital education they were not financially prepared for.
“My kids were A+ students and now they dropped to B or C. My son was getting A’s and now he’s getting C’s and that is only because of this online schooling,” Tracy Motie told Guardian Media.
Motie does not have enough devices for her three children. And even if she did, they would have no access to the internet. As a single mom, Motie has to take them to the fruit sheds with her. There’s no WiFi there.
But there was at the home of Dianna Rampersad, one of the few homes in the village with WiFi. She has opened her home to some of the children in the area.
“I started to give my son work under my home and the children saw what my son was doing and the neighbour’s child asked if she could get some help as well, and my husband said if a child ask for help is to help and that’s how it started,” Rampersad said.
But even with WiFi, Rampersad’s son is forced to use a cell phone that cannot withstand the demands of online learning.
For some, the situation is worse.
“My three children doing packages only because we don’t have a device. I don’t have any current and it does be very hard,” Roopai said.
When we asked her if COVID-19 made affordability an issue, there was a collective and clear yes from the parents who surrounded us.
Agriculture is the lifeblood of Kernaham Village. Villagers sell produce and fish along the Manzanilla to Mayaro Road. Now they say they’ve dropped their prices drastically to attract customers. After they buy food and necessities, the villagers say not much is left over for devices or even an internet connection.
“If I have the money I will put a 10-day (mobile data) plan for a hundred dollars. When I don’t have the hundred dollars I will put three-days or one-day plan and we try to get all the work done before that plan up,” Reshma Pooran told us.
The villagers believe 15 devices will get their children back on track.
Anyone wishing to assist the residents can call 397-7746.