COVID-19: closure of schools |02 April 2020
Dr Justin Valentin proposes alternative way to help children and parents
Since March 16 all public and private schools on Mahé have closed their doors and a week after all educational institutions in Seychelles followed suit. Due to COVID-19, the government decided on that measure to help contain the spread of this dangerous virus. A decision well accepted by parents and the Ministry of Education and the private schools had to come up with ways to keep educating the children even in that situation.
The curriculum was put online by the Ministry of Education and also by private schools. The children without internet connection can get their homework through print-outs from their respective school. While it is a good initiative, many parents found themselves in new unexpected shoes. We had a quick chat with Dr Justin Valentin, vice-chancellor at the University of Seychelles (UniSey) who is proposing an alternative way to help the children and the parents as well.
Seychelles NATION: Is it fair for the parents to assume such a responsibility?
Dr Justin Valentin: All of a sudden, parents have been given a teaching role. Schools have been calling parents to come and collect lessons for their kids. It is clear that these lessons have been prepared overnight with practically zero guidelines as to how parents should progress. This is unfair and the practice needs some re-thinking. Giving parents a pile of activities may be equal to giving nothing in many instances. Already there are parents who are complaining. Regretfully, some teachers are sharing unwelcoming statements on social media such as, “now you would know the pain”. There is another popular one which goes as such, “soon you will know that the problem was not with the teacher”. These statements are professionally incorrect and our vocation as teachers should not lead us into these kinds of behaviour.
Seychelles NATION: Why do you think it is important to talk about the challenges of home schooling?
Dr Justin Valentin: Three weeks from this sudden role shift, the authority is yet to come forward to address the issue: (a) by supporting parents and (b) giving parents an idea of what home schooling is all about.
I see it as my moral obligation as a teacher, just like the health workers are in the frontline, I see it as my duty of care to step in and address the issue of home schooling and the challenges it carries. I wish to begin with a debate on home schooling to sensitise parents on how they may approach this new role.
Seychelles NATION: Where will the human resources come from?
Dr Justin Valentin: I wish to recruit a number of competent teachers who are willing to go live and conduct lessons to various groups on targeted themes. Students can participate in live and interactive sessions. Parents’ roles will be to ensure that their kids follow the sessions. There will of course be assigned tasks which parents and kids can engage in during the day.
SBC can be useful in this regard. I require a small crew, a room to make this happen. It is doable and can be very effective. In terms of teacher availability: I am confident that there are many teachers who share this project and will be willing to come forward. I have had excellent reaction from SBC only minutes after my facebook post.
Seychelles NATION contacted the chief executive of SBC, Berard Dupres, regarding the suggestion from Dr Valentin and his comment was: “There was no email from Dr Valentin on this matter. When I was alerted this morning to Dr Valentin’s Facebook post by our head of marketing and corporate affairs, Cindy Wirtz, I asked her to get in touch with Dr Valentin, because we agreed that this was a very good initiative and one which we welcome.
Dr Valentin subsequently contacted me by phone, and we had a productive conversation on how we can bring his idea forward. We have encouraged a joined-up approach with the Ministry of Education on this, which he agrees.
“We all agree that SBC is simply the platform and that the experts on what and how to provide such sessions to the students are the educators themselves. SBC and the Ministry of Education have, accordingly, been engaging on how we can achieve this in a collaborative and efficient manner.
“Having other willing and able stakeholders on board, whether from the public or private sector, will be a booster making this a truly shared responsibility. Under this same ethos, SBC has, over the past year or more, been engaging with other stakeholders from health, environment and culture towards a better pool of informative and educational programmes within their respective sectors.
“Our Policy on Airtime (https://sbc.sc/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/SBCPol-03-Policy-on-Airtime.pdf), first published over a year ago, asserts that any content submitted to SBC which fully meets our mandates (namely to Inform, Educate, Entertain and Inspire our Nation), will be aired free of charge.
“SBC alone, with its resources constraint (both financial and human), cannot produce content to meet demands and expectations under various genres.
“Thankfully our technical capability, namely DTT, allows us to accommodate additional content on our platforms.”