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Ayanna Webster-Roy

Member of Parliament for Tobago East Ayana Webster-Roy said yesterday that she raised a red-flag about the sharing of pornographic content during an online class, to point to the need for vigilance among parents.

A class at the Bishop’s High School in Tobago was interrupted on Tuesday when pornographic material began broadcasting through on a student’s connection.

Webster-Roy has two children attending the school.

Yesterday she said her social media post was to highlight the disciplinary problems being faced by teachers as persons spoke about similar experiences from other schools and private lessons.

She said she felt it was her duty as a parent first then as the Minister with responsibility for Gender and Child Affairs to “call out parents on the issue.”

“It highlighted the fact that some parents were not being vigilant in the home in terms of what was happening with their children when the online classes were occurring.”

She said the question of student honesty and trustworthiness with online class links was also being highlighted.

“If a teacher gives a child a link for a specific person and purpose that child should keep the link privately and not share it because it’s also indicative of lack of respect for authority,” she said.

Webster-Roy who said she supports and makes contributions to the school described the incident as a teaching moment.

“We say that children have a right to an education and even during this pandemic we still try our best to educate them. Are we as parents communicating with them that with this responsibility comes with responsibility?”

She said children are also responsible for ensuring that they provide a safe learning environment for themselves and classmates and added that it’s not a teacher’s responsibility to act as a parent to children.

“So we send our children to school on a regular (basis) for teachers to parent so during this time of lockdown we still expect teachers to parent our children as well? It’s our responsibility. We cannot depend on the state to raise our children.”

She said parents should not blame teachers who sacrifice a lot to educate and discipline children.

Meanwhile, the Trinidad and Tobago Unified Teachers’ Association (TUTTA) representative for Tobago, Bradon Roberts described the incident as unfortunate. He said the incident is indicative of student indiscipline in the classroom and inefficiencies in the system as teachers were rushed to provide online classes.

“It is important to have systems in place, as there are several teachers who are not in tune with the technology and at that level where we can manage the platform and manoeuvre effectively and safely.”

He said the incident is one of many and when teachers hesitated to engage in online classes they were highly criticized by members of the public. He called on parents to do their part in ensuring everyone is safe.

“Parents and students need to have guidelines as to how you manage these sessions at home it is not that children would be left unsupervised with their laptop and tablet for a period of time where such things could be happening.”

And while teachers are charged with managing the classroom, Roberts advised that teachers refrain from using the online platforms if they are not confident they are in full control.

A press release from the Division of Education, Innovation and Energy strongly condemned the behaviour of students who disrupt online classrooms and also called on parents to “exercise their responsibility and do all in their power to minimise opportunities for students to access undesirable websites.”

The release went on to state that the School Supervision Unit, is actively investigating these matters and Student Support Services Unit, and will provide the appropriate guidance and counselling to students who share inappropriate content, as well as to students who were exposed.

The Division has also commissioned its own secured platform, which caters to SEA, CSEC and CAPE, and teachers will be trained in its use.

In the meantime, principals and teachers are encouraged to utilise the Learning Management System (LMS) of the Ministry of Education.