Internet connectivity among main concerns as schools reopen

St. Mary resident Rosalee Barnett, Linvern Wright, President of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, and Erika Ewbanks, Principal of Garvey Maceo High School in Clarendon
With public schools now reopened for the new academic year, internet connectivity issues have been among the complaints from parents and caregivers.
Complaints have come from St. Mary and St. Elizabeth.
Rosalee Barnett from Barracks River in St. Mary said since May, her community and three others - Flint River, Newport and Essex - have had no internet service due to theft of Flow cables.
Ms Barnett said as a result, her four nieces and nephews, who are at the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, are unable to participate in online classes. 
"We call FLOW until we are sick and all we're getting (is) 'Sorry for the inconvenience', and this morning school open and the children cannot do their work," she bemoaned. 
"I'm not working and when I buy data, as I buy it, it's finished," she added. 
According to Ms Barnett, several schools, including St. Mary High, St. Mary Technical, Zion Hill Primary and Rose Hill Primary have also been affected by the loss of internet service.
Complaints have also come from parents about challenges accessing the Zoom platform and Google Classroom.
Radio Jamaica News also received a complaint of disruption in electricity supply from a resident of Lawrence Tavern in St. Andrew.
The Jamaica Public Service Company has said the problem would be rectified.
Principals' association encouraged 
In the meantime, Linvern Wright, President of the Jamaica Association of Principals of Secondary Schools, has said he is encouraged by the level of preparation so far by the Ministry of Education.
Speaking Monday on the Morning Agenda on Power 106, Mr. Wright said he expects there will be teething pains this week.
While he has acknowledged and is pleased with some improvements that have been made, Mr. Wright is concerned about the continued internet connectivity challenges.  
"We see last week to this week as a test and as a preparatory week in ensuring that everybody is on.... One of the things I know is a challenge though is access - access in terms of the gadgets for some. More importantly, there are kids who have gadgets but the connectivity in their areas is still a problem. That's something I think we have to work out with the telecoms companies. But so far, I think what has been happening is encouraging," he said.  
Balancing act 
Meanwhile, Erika Ewbanks, Principal of Garvey Maceo High School in Clarendon, said the internet connectivity problems are extremely challenging for school stakeholders, especially parents, as it will require them to make difficult choices for the good of their children. 
"Purchasing data, not going to work is expensive. We're in a pandemic and parents can't afford it. It's going to be a balance between getting food to eat, feeding your children and trying to get them educated; and it should not be that way. And we have been saying it as leaders long enough.... I hear the ministry talking about accessing Google Suite is free, and I'm thinking, parents are gonna think that you just need a device and you can go on free. If you're not connected, you cannot access the platform," she outlined.          

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