BUT president Belinda Wilson.
By TANYA SMITH-CARTWRIGHT
THE Ministry of Education’s public school virtual learning platform remained down for the second day yesterday, according to the Bahamas Union of Teachers.
Education officials had to turn to “plan B” which, according to BUT president Belinda Wilson, was strictly initiated by teachers.
On Monday, the Ministry of Education’s system crashed and students across The Bahamas were either tossed off the system, or could not get on due to non-working passwords. On Tuesday, the system was still down, but students were taught virtually by another method.
“The Ministry of Education’s virtual learning platform is still not up,” said Mrs Wilson. “So there are some schools who went to alternative plans and most of them are putting together their own Zoom classrooms.
“So far one or two schools got on. What some of the schools have done is they’ve just switched to Zoom classrooms. I think the Ministry of Education was very disingenuous in its press release saying it has switched to ‘plan B’. The Ministry of Education never had a ‘plan B’. The teachers are the ones who made a ‘plan B’ by switching to Zoom and Google Classroom. With those platforms, they are able to teach. Eva Hilton and SC McPherson are two examples. They are using the Zoom platform.”
In a press release issued late Monday, the Ministry of Education admitted that the system was having difficulty, that teachers would resort to plan B and also noted that companies responsible for its system were working to restore it.
“As the public may be aware, the Department of Education did experience some technical challenges which prohibited many students from gaining access to our learning management system (LMS),” the ministry said. “Thankfully, most of our school administrators and teachers were able to implement alternative modes of online instructional delivery using their ‘plan B. One on One and Amazon Web Services, the companies responsible for hosting our LMS, are working to address the issues experienced today. It is hoped that these challenges will be resolved shortly,” the statement said.
Parents were appreciative that teachers were finding a way to give instruction despite the system issues.
MaKeva Symonette said “plan B” was working for her and her son.
“I don’t have a complaint here,” Ms Symonette said. “We heard from my son’s teacher and she gave us certain information and that is what he used this morning. I must say I am a little disappointed with the Ministry of Education. I think officials there had all summer to get their system up and running. That was sufficient time to iron out the kinks. This is a real black eye on them, I must say.
“I am not interested in the politics of it, but I just think that if officials made such a big deal about this as a safety method for students, then it should be up and running. Thank God there is a backup plan or we would be back at square one with the children basically not being taught anything. These are some scary times and I don’t think the children of this era would ever be as learned as those who came out of the system before them. It’s real sad.”
In Abaco, parent Andrea Musgrove said the system was not her main worry, as electricity was off at the time she was contacted.
“You’re asking me if the learning system is up and running, in Abaco? How would I know that? You need to first ask me if I have electricity. The lights have been off here since morning so I can’t say if the learning system is working. Abaco is the forgotten island these days, it seems, so anything is possible here,” she said.
“A family member called me this morning to say her child was online working, so I assume something must be up for her to work on, but I really can’t tell you what is happening on this side here where I am because we have no electricity.”
The Tribune made several attempts to contact Minister of Education Jeffrey Lloyd and Director of Education Marcellus Taylor to no avail.
In its statement the Ministry of Education said despite the COVID-19 crisis, it is pleased with the progress that has been made since the official start of the 2020 – 2021 academic year on October 5.