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Saturday, February 27, 2021

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Schools Online Portal Crashes on First Day

It was back-to-school for thousands of students, but they encountered connectivity issues with the Ministry of Education’s online learning portal, on their first day.

As teachers and students attempted to sign in, they were greeted with a sign that read, “Undergoing maintenance. Thank you for being patient. We’re doing some work on the site and will be back shortly.”

Users were unable to access the Ministry of Education online learning portal.

As of three o’clock, the end of a school day, the ministry had not yet issued a notice or press release informing users of the connectivity issues.

Complaints flood in

Parents took to social media to vent their frustration, as they chronicled the agony of signing on their children for the first day of school.

Monica Sawyer said, “Mr. Minister, this ain’t working.”

Dedrie Hamilton who has three school-aged children said, ” I have three kids in school–grades 12, 10 and 5. No luck with MOE. It’s really frustrating.”

And Adreanna Martin said, “I been trying to get on, still nothing is happening.”

Teachers resort to Zoom

Anticipating issues with the new online portal, the Redcross Center for the Deaf used the Zoom platform to engage its students.

The school tested the platform last week for its students and decided to continue its use for the month of October.

A teacher who wanted to remain anonymous said her school did not get an update from the ministry on the use of the online virtual portal nor did teachers receive training on its use, so her school resorted to Zoom, a tried and true platform that has arisen in popularity since the onset of the pandemic.

Ministry says it will fix the problem

When CSJ Report called the ministry, a secretary said technicians were working to rectify the problem. She said her office has been bombarded with calls from concern parents were trying to log on but were unable to do so. The secretary said teachers have uploaded assignments to the portal but students are unable to access them due to an issue “on our side.” The issue is expected to be addressed by Thursday morning.

Schools Reopen on Monday. What Should We Expect from President Wilson?

President of Bahamas Union of Teachers Belinda Wilson threatens industrial action if the Ministry of Education does not present a clear plan of its reopening procedures, as public schools begin the new school year on Monday.

In a voice note, Wilson said,”They (education officials) keep sending me the guidelines (health and safety) for the Ministry of Environmental Health. We’re asking how the Ministry of Environmental Health guidelines equate to what happens in schools.

“So it seems, the only language the education officials understand is industrial action.”

She said after six months of dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, confusion and uncertainty about the health and safety protocols for teachers and students still loom.

Schools with recent COVID-19 cases on campus according to Wilson

Wilson said these schools were recently reported:

  • R.M Bailey High School
  • Anatol Rodgers School
  • Carlton E. Francis Primary School
  • Willard Patton Preschool
  • Albury Sayles Primary School
  • A.F Adderley Junior High
  • C.H. Reeves Junior School

Belinda Wilson wants a seat at the table

Wilson wants the Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd, Permanent Secretary Lorraine Armbrister and Director Marcellus Taylor “to mature.”

She is calling on them to meet with the union to agree to a workable plan for the reopening of schools, adding that other issues plague the system since schools will reopen using a digital platform.

Digital challenges claimed by Wilson

  • challenges with the tablets
  • internet connection
  • curriculum content on the platform
  • teachers can not log on to the platform for training

Belinda’s rocky relationship with education officials may hamper other discussions

Wilson’s relationship with Director Marcellus Taylor is known to be rocky, but her relationship has recently hit a rough spot with the education minister when Lloyd said Wilson sent him WhatsApp messages containing the words “f— y’all.”

Lloyd said his ministry will not hold discussions with Wilson until she apologizes and stops behaving in a “disrespectful and insulting” manner.

Lloyd told reporters that his ministry has tried its best to work with Wilson but to no avail as her actions have threatened the quality of education for Bahamian students.

Featured Image: Tribune

Are Teachers and Students Struggling with MOE Tablets for Online Learning? Education Officials Say ‘Not So’

Over the weekend, the Ministry of Education issued a statement refuting claims posted on social media that its recent purchase of tablets for online learning is incompatible with the Zoom platform.

The Ministry of Education called attention to the post and labelled it “fake news” stating that it “has not purchased any devices that were not compatible with its platform.”

Their press statement goes on to say all of its devices, including the donated devices, are being used “in the management of school operations in the collection of data in the field and on our Office 365 Platform for the creation and sharing of documents.”

What are the claims by the social media user and did the Ministry of Education address the concerns?

The post tweeted by Latrae Rahming, a former press secretary in the Christie administration, claimed that the Ministry of Education  spent millions of dollars on computer tablets for virtual learning, finding out later that “the tablets were incompatible with the Zoom platform.”

Rahming claimed that because of this, the tablets “could not be used.”

When the Ministry fought back, it did not mention the tablets’ compatibility for the Zoom platform which shot to fame during the coronavirus lockdowns, becoming a leading platform for video and audio conferencing, chat, and webinars.

However, the Ministry of Education stated that the tablets were compatible for its Office 365 platform.

What are the claims by teachers?

A few teachers in response to the post, have agreed with Rahming, claiming that tablets are not compatible with Zoom.

One claiming to be an educator said, “It’s definitely not fake news.”

Another said, “…attempted to access all mentioned in this document with no success.”

President of Bahamas Union of Teachers Belinda Wilson in a spat with the Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd, told the Tribune that Lloyd “needs to make sure that schools throughout the Bahamas have reliable internet access, teachers have laptops and not tablets that are incompatible with Zoom platform.”

How many tablets were distributed?

Jeff Lloyd, in a report to the country last month, said his Ministry distributed 9,000 tablets to students in grades K–3 and seeks to assist more students in the lower primary level.

He said digital devices such as tablets, laptops, and projectors were distributed to
pre-school and lower primary schools on New Providence, Eleuthera, Exuma, Long Island, Cat Island, South Andros, Acklins, San Salvador, Mayaguana and East Grand Bahama.

Lloyd added that approximately 500 school administrators have received devices in the
form of tablets, due to the Ministry’s partnership with BTC. Additionally, all teachers have access to a device along with high-speed internet connectivity on their school’s campus.

Since then, private partners have donated tablets to the Ministry.

Darville Says Lloyd Ignored Mayaguana. Why He Believes Emmanuel Should Show Support

Opposition Senator Michael Darville is calling on MICAL MP Miriam Emmanuel to stand up and say something on the issue involving the amalgamation of the school system in Mayaguana.

“It is interesting that in the face of all of this, the duly elected member for MICAL has not made a public intervention and remains silent to date.”

Darville said combining the primary and secondary public schools in Mayaguana is “a regressive education policy and a move backwards to the outdated ‘all age school’ education system.”

He said Education Minister Jeff Lloyd is ignoring the cries of the community, but he awaits Emmanuel’s response to the plight of her constituents.

What happened to the school system in Mayaguana?

Education officials closed the public schools, Abraham’s Bay High School and Pirates Well Primary school to combine the education system on the southern island.

Lloyd said this was the best move and Education Director Marcellus Taylor agreed, saying it allows for all teachers to teach on one site instead of leaving to teach at the other building.

Taylor said this new move will improve teaching and learning on the island as enrollment decreases.

Abraham’s Bay High School would become the administration building.

Where would the schools be relocated?

The schools will be relocated to the proposed refurbished site in Pirate’s Well which is the Lodge Hall building.

Teachers Union Leader Belinda Wilson said the government should pause the move until all parties come to an agreement. She described the lodge building as “dilapidated.”

Darville said the building is inadequate, not COVID-19 compliant and believes the refurbishment cannot be completed in time for school opening.

What do parents want?

On August 7th, parents and students held a protest, demanding that the schools remain as is, saying it allows for social distancing in an era of COVID-19.

One mother said the settlement of Betsy Bay was crippled by the closure.

Can You Survive the 2020 School Year?

October 5th is the targetted date for the reopening of schools in the Bahamas.

New Providence, Abaco and Eleuthera will engage in online learning, while schools in Grand Bahama and other Family Islands will offer face-to-face learning.

Education Minister Jeffrey Lloyd in a report to the nation announced that an increase in the infection rate of the COVID-19 in New Providence and Family Islands has forced the Department of Education to urgently plan and consider the reopening of schools, which was previously scheduled to reopen September 21st.

However, Bahamas Union of Teachers Belinda Wilson is lamenting that education officials did not confer the new date with the union and is asking education officials for the policy that will govern online and in-person learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Will online learning cause problems?

Some teachers have taken to social media to vent their frustrations about the logistics of reopening schools, questioning if the government will provide the digital devices for the teaching instructions, how to ensure student attendance in online learning, and the care of their children as they teach online classes.

Director of Education Marcellus Taylor said employers, to the extent that they can, should consider some levels of flexibility around working arrangements or allowing children to come along with their parents to work, if possible.

He added that attendance officers will ensure the attendance of students, and resource packages will be issued to students without access to the internet and a computer.

Wilson, appearing on Beyond the Headlines, queried the number of hours given for students in a virtual setting, saying the officials assigned too many hours for students to sit and learn virtually.

She also questioned how teachers will assess students’ examinations and quizzes, and how administrators will assess teachers’ performance.

Dr. Ebby Jackson proprietor of Palmdale Vision Center said the online learning has a negative effect on the eyes. Jackson appearing on Beyond the Headlines said eyes were not made to be locked onto a computer screen for long periods of time, which she said will be problematic for teachers, parents, and the students, particularly if either party suffers from an underlying condition.

What are the risks of in-person schooling?

While online learning may present some economic and social impediments, face-to-face classes present clear public health risks to the physical reopening of schools. Though not surging in the Family Islands, COVID-19 cases are springing up.

And schools bring together hundreds of students, which may present a challenge with talking and camaraderie during the lunch period, which experts say cause the virus to spread.

However, most schools on the islands have small population sizes, and Taylor said these schools permit for social distancing, in contrast to schools in New Providence.

Officials announced that students will be spaced 3 feet apart in the classroom, but Wilson is calling for 6 feet spacing, as stipulated for social protocols.

Wilson questioned the class sizes under which teachers will be expected to engage students and implored that education officials install acrylic or plexiglass sheets around the desks of teachers, to reduce the spread.