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Minister: Disrespect in online classes unacceptable

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Camille Moreno

Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at work in the Education Ministry on September 1. FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB -
Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly at work in the Education Ministry on September 1. FILE PHOTO/ROGER JACOB –

Misbehaviour during online classes is unacceptable Education Minister Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly said on Saturday, expressing displeasure over a video of students disrespecting a teacher.

In the video, said to be of a virtual class in Port of Spain, students, and an adult believed to be a parent, are heard being verbally abusive to each other and the teacher who tried to get them to settle down.

On her Facebook page, the minister said there were several incidents like this.

“I note with utmost displeasure the incidences, thankfully sporadic, of disrespect to our teachers by students and, sadly, at least one parent during this last week in the online environment. Nothing makes this okay,” she said.

Schools are operating online to safeguard students, teachers and other staff from covid19. However, the minister said learning at home is no excuse for bad behaviour.

“A classroom is a classroom – whether online or face-to-face, and misbehaviour always finds an outlet, unfortunately,” said Gadsby-Dolly a former secondary school teacher.

Everyone, especially teachers, feels the pressure of managing classes virtually, she added, but no one should be disrespected.

“We are all experiencing differing levels of stress as we navigate this new experience – students, teachers, parents, principals, (Ministry of Education) staff, stakeholders – none is exempt; but our teachers are out on the frontline, many of them spending hours preparing work, organising themselves to deliver to the best of their ability, and they deserve our full respect and support.

“A teacher being exposed to the level of disrespect I have heard in recorded classes can be humiliating, distressing and devastating. Let’s all do our part to encourage respect for each other in the online environment, and let’s remember that we are adjusting to this together – we must be tolerant of each other’s process. Each of us may not play our role perfectly from the start, but with time and effort, we will become more skilled in our navigation of this “cyberterm.”

“So let our watchwords discipline, tolerance and production be our guide as together we continue to surmount the many challenges of these uncertain times. #EducationMatters #SurmountingChallenges,” she urged in her post.

The first two weeks of the 2020/2021 school year were assigned to orientation for students and teachers, although many schools already started classes, which officially begins on Monday. Online learning has been a challenge for 65,000 students who do not have access to laptops and other devices leading the minister to appeal to corporate sector to help by donating to the Adopt-a-School Initiative.

However, the Opposition on Saturday hit the ministry for “sloppy planning” for virtual classes.

UNC PRO Anita Haynes, in a statement, claims parents are still waiting for information on packages for students who are unable to access online classes. The ministry had said teaching material would be placed at schools for parents to collect and work with their children at home.

“Large numbers of parents are being told by schools that no such provisions for packages have been made and therefore there are none to be collected,” said Haynes, adding, “this is simply unacceptable!”

Haynes said parents were also frustrated by the “haphazard nature” of the plans to distribute school lunches.

“Without any prior consultation, the Ministry of Education informed all Members of Parliament that 500 lunch boxes would be delivered at our constituency offices to distribute as we saw fit. There were no guidelines as to how this should have been done. But as it turns out, the lunches never came and there has been no communication from the ministry stating when the lunches will arrive, if ever.”

Haynes urged the minister to see the pandemic as a means to improve the work of the ministry and “not simply as an excuse for failure.”

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