It ain't going to work

It ain't going to work

Fr. Colin King with students and teacher in Revival, Jamaica, last year.

Challenges to education

All Jamaican schools shut down in March thanks to the coronavirus pandemic. The new school year was to open on Monday, September 7, 2020, with protocols in place regarding mask wearing, social distancing, and sanitizing stations readily available. I was a bit skeptical because Negril All Age School has a heap of kids in a compact area. There was the possibility of split-shifts and/or classes on alternate days. Then the Ministry of Education decided to delay opening to October 5. One week before the October 5 date the decision was made to have no face-to-face classes, ushering in “virtual learning.”

friar with students

In a photo from last year, Fr. Jim with students in the yard of St. Anthony's Kitchen

I took a deep breath, exhaled, and said, “It ain’t gonna work!” Sadly, the infrastructure that would allow successful virtual learning is woefully lacking throughout the country, especially in rural areas. Many schools do not have internet accessibility. Many children do not have internet at home. And many children do not have the smartphone, tablet or laptop that is necessary to access their schools and teachers. And many of the children live in extremely poor circumstances making the purchase of hardware, internet and data “virtually” impossible. Fr. Colin and I are working at ways to help our children have access to virtual learning.

With Cornerstone Jamaica’s help I just got a little router called a Mi-FI. It cost around JMD$6,000 (USD$50) and allows 15 users to access the internet. I would put  credit on it like I do with my phone. We are going to use it at St. Anthony’s Kitchen. Imagine 15 socially distanced chairs in the yard, with 15 kids doing schoolwork. Imagine each of those students with a tablet. Then imagine the hundred other students who are not sitting in one of those 15 chairs. Then imagine if we can strategically locate a Mi-Fi in various poor neighborhoods and provide a tablet to a family. This dream is virtually possible.

friar with students

Fr. Colin review Covid precautions with students at the end of school term.

Fr. Colin and I both had a dream to open a learning center, a place where students can come, access the internet, do schoolwork, and get some help from someone on staff. Those dreams are coming true in Revival, a little district in “the bush,” and in our little town of Negril. Fr. Colin and I cannot sit back and allow children to be denied an education because of their poverty. We are praying that you can’t either. Virtual learning is not virtually impossible if we all pitch in. Can you help make our virtual dream a reality?

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