Dr Jeffrey Blaize
Dr Jeffrey Blaize

The COVID -19 pandemic has forced Dominican teachers to become students to be able to teach students.

For some teachers it is a system made to generate frustration and stress. Yanked from board-and-chalk teaching to Google classrooms almost overnight, teachers are confused. They want to quit.

"To be quite honest, I feel very overwhelmed," said a teacher who requested anonymity to speak to THE SUN because of fear of reprisals. "That sort of teaching modality took me by surprise. I was not prepared. I am doing the best that I can, given the situation, but it is not something that I envy."

"Many teachers who are using the Google classroom learned the stuff by trial and error," another teacher told THE SUN. "No formal training was given to teachers like me. I had to research and do things on my own…there are teachers who have a few months left in the system and cannot handle that stress hence the children suffer since they are, in most cases, not doing anything. So in a situation like that, the system has failed the students." But Ministry of Education officials say that the new system is work-in-progress and teething pains are expected.

"We have embarked on a series of training programmes for our teachers and as we speak, teachers are being trained. Prior to the closing of schools in March, we had already started our training," said Dr. Jeffrey Blaize, Assistant Chief Education Officer. "For me, I would say that the teachers did their very best seeing that this is a new modality for them and they are not sufficiently trained in doing it. So the little knowledge that they had, I think that they did their very best and we at the Ministry of Education compliment them".

The National Online Education Platform is fully established and gives access to all students, parents, teachers and principals from across the island said Queen Thomas, District Education Officer-South who is in charge of the online service.

She said over 14,000 emails were established on the education.gov.dm domain for use by students/parents, teachers, officers, principals.

Seventy- three lead teachers were identified nationally and have fully embraced the platform, she said. They continue to support other teachers and students in the use of the online platform at the school, district and national level, Thomas said.

According to Thomas, at least two weeks training in the use of the Google classroom app were held for all teachers and principals on island at the district and school levels at the start of the term and 99% of public-school teachers have accessed the platform.

"Many teachers have shown great commitment and effort in ensuring that their students are reached," Thomas said.

But both Thomas and Dr. Blaize admit that the system is not perfect. However, tentative supervision and monitoring tools have been developed and are presently being used by principals and or officers to monitor and report on the system.

"Draft guidelines for teachers in use of the online platform were developed, summarized and shared with officers, principals and teachers," Thomas said. "A proposal for additional training for teachers, principals and officers have been drafted and submitted to funding agencies for consideration".

Additionally, the ministry has distributed 393 devices to some schools as part of additional support in the online education initiative, Thomas said.