Teachers are critical to online learning- Mervin Alexander
Teachers are critical to online learning- Mervin Alexander

In Dominica, the first Friday in October is usually observed as Teachers Day and the Thursday before that as Teachers Appreciation Day. On this day students show their gratitude through a variety of gestures such as song, dance, poems, and the giving of tokens. Some students even try to be well-behaved for a change.

But all that has gone out the window this year thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and the decision by the Ministry of Education that children are not to return to the classroom for face-to-face teaching just yet.

Some teachers, who chose not to give their names, said they were okay with no Teachers Appreciation Day this year.

"I have enough tokens from my students."

"Some children, and parents, will be happy they don't have to get a gift for the teacher."

"I'm indifferent."

As a compromise of sorts, President of the Dominica Association of Teachers (DAT) Mervin Alexander encouraged children to call into the radio stations and post messages on social media expressing gratitude to their educators.

But you must admit, appreciation for teachers should not only come from parents and students. Those at the top need to show appreciation for what teachers are doing in these unprecedented circumstances.

Authorities announced that online teaching would start for Fifth Form students in September, while the other students would begin online classes from Monday 04th October.

"From feedback from teachers, things have been going pretty well although there are some complaints with the instability of the internet service and, of course, with all students coming online on October 04th that is another matter," Alexander told The SUN.

Alexander pointed to other issues that teachers say complicate their task of educating the nation's children.

"One, since they are expected to be at their schools, the traveling is causing some anxiety since most have to travel by public transportation. Two, the lack of devices thereof. Some teachers do not have since what they had gone bad and have not been able to replace it. Some have children who are also having classes online, there is the concern that they are to be at school while their children are at home with little to no supervision," he said.

Another major fear is teachers with underlying medical conditions having to share space with other colleagues who have refused to get vaccinated.

The international community recognizes Tuesday 05th October World Teachers Day under the theme: Teachers at the Heart of Education Recovery.

Alexander says this theme is very pertinent to Dominica.

"Teachers are the backbone of the education system. In a sense all the work is done by them; sadly, with a low salary and some not being appointed. From the onset of the pandemic, teachers with little-to-no training in online teaching embraced that form of teaching and I daresay at a great cost to themselves since some of them were using data paid for by themselves to ensure teaching continued since they have no laptops," Alexander said.

All these concerns raised by the nation's teachers seem to fall on deaf ears as they try to get water from the moon or blood from stone.

"Here we are again, while a survey was conducted by the education authorities to ascertain whether students had devices for online learning, no such survey was done for the ones who are expected to impart the knowledge, and they have their concerns. They are willing and ready to do whatever they can to ensure that learning continues," he said.

But just how will this school term fare out? And when will children return to the classroom? Or, when will teachers receive the appreciation and recognition they deserve?