They don’t really appreciate distance education, because they miss school, friends and these moments of communication. But at the end of October, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Lebanon, they have no choice but to get used to it. True, public schools opened their doors on October 12, but only for classes with official exams, third, first and last. As for private schools, they are largely dependent on the closure instructions imposed by the authorities in a number of localities, and in some, on the destruction caused by the August 4 explosion. So, in anticipation of a reassessment of the health situation, on October 26, things are going well for many students who welcome online learning, much more interactive than last year, and the opportunity to get a little more sleep in the morning. For others, and not just the less privileged, it is hardship or even boredom. Questions, constant power cuts, cranky internet, lack of proper equipment, or simply difficulty concentrating.
Internet and power outages
“Nope! Another internet failure! Every time the Wi-Fi connection is interrupted, Olina, a seventh-grade student at the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul school in Brumman, gets angry. In two periods of French of half an hour each, she managed to follow only a quarter of an hour. ” “She couldn’t connect that day. The password didn’t work,” the mother said helplessly. To make matters worse, the girl risks losing points if she is flagged as absent. This could affect his overall GPA. Hence the need to notify her teacher via WhatsApp. Her also have to have time to restart the failed performance because the teacher has to move on.For Wael, 9 years old, at CM1, at the Collège des Saints-Cœurs Sioufi, the difficulty is due to a power outage.” It’s difficult! he notes. By the time I reconnect, my classmates have already completed the exercise. »
Connection problems and power outages are the main brakes on online education in a country where electricity is available on a splinter basis, forcing subscribers to rely on local generators. And the entire population, both students and teachers, suffers. So Nur, a 4th grade student at the Collège de Saint-Coeur-Sioufy, saw several times that his mathematics course was postponed. “The teacher was unable to connect,” she notes, referring to the whims of Wi-Fi. “Home Wi-Fi connection has been missing for three days without explanation. I have no choice but to connect my laptop to 4G so as not to miss classes. The limit is quickly exceeded, and my phone bill will skyrocket,” fears Kalin, a high school student at Melkart College. A charlatan who annoys a young girl but makes her aware of her privileged position compared to the many students in the country who are forced to share their tablet or laptop with their siblings or decide not to take distance lessons for financial reasons. . The position of the sage Oleyan is especially difficult. In a senior class at Deir Kif (Tir) Public High School in South Lebanon, a high school student said he was “desperate”. Because he has only attended two days of classes so far, “the school bus driver claimed that his monthly salary was too high.” It also cannot work on the Internet. “I don’t have the right equipment, and I can’t afford to buy the necessary,” the young man laments. Because her mobile phone “is unable to download the Microsoft Team app” and her mother’s phone is mobilized by her sister. “I already missed the practical work in mathematics, during which the teacher explained how to use the calculator,” the bachelor regrets. And when he complained to the administration of the institution, he was told that this was not serious, and online training made up only 10% of the courses. “I’m afraid of failing my undergraduate degree. And I’d be the only one to regret it,” he said helplessly.
It’s a lack of concentration
Financial barriers to education are affecting large parts of the Lebanese population amid a declining pound and a severe economic crisis, not to mention that the Beirut port explosion on August 4 further weakened an increasingly vulnerable population. According to the World Bank, 45% of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line. But in addition to this serious problem, for which the National Education has not yet found a solution, online education is also criticized for other reasons.
Among them are difficulties in concentrating the attention of students, which greatly affects the mental health of parents and especially mothers in families. “If I don’t sit next to him, Roy, my 8-year-old son, educated at the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul school in Bourges-Hammoud, will not make any effort,” laments Cindy, who plays both the role of mother and teacher like many parents. However, the young woman is professionally active and would never want to miss her working day. “He gets up to answer yes or no, drink water, eat something. Or it seems to be missing, ”she notes. “An exercise that should only take a few minutes ends up taking hours,” she laments, admitting she sometimes loses her nerve in the face of this situation. “I wish school could start again,” she pleads. Because his son was a “good student” when he went to class.
The problem is all the more serious given that many rural parents are poorly educated and unfamiliar with computers. “Most of the parents of our students are not able to help their children with their studies, and even more so with online education,” said Zeina Derian, vice president of Paradis d’enfants, an NGO that unites three semi-free schools with 2,000 students. from low-income families. “In times of economic crisis, their main concern is to provide food for the family,” she says.
Longer sleep time
It’s not all black, of course. Ms Derian notes “clear progress in distance learning compared to last year.” “The pace is lower than in the classroom. Of course, I work hard and miss my friends very much. But I can sleep longer in the morning and I don’t have to run to get ready,” Noor admits. “I can’t stay focused for long. But I see that it is much better organized than last year, and that the teachers have mastered the technique better,” Kalin says. For many families, this learning is also welcome during this time of health uncertainty. “One of my four children has asthma. I’m afraid to see him infected. I feel more comfortable keeping him at home after the Covid-19 pandemic, as are his siblings, all of whom are students at the Collège de Freres de Mreyer,” admits Mirwat, a housewife. . Despite the family’s financial difficulties and the need to share the only computer in the house and two tired mobile phones, “the two older ones (a terminal and a third one) are doing just fine on their own.” The only thing that worries her, aside from the repeated blackouts of electricity and the Internet, is “those headaches that children experience after spending a day with their heads chained to screens.”
Finally, there is humor and little anecdotes that brighten up the lonely mornings of students who miss their classmates, teachers and the school environment. Like this student who fell asleep again in the morning, in the middle of a virtual lesson, or the intrusion of the teacher’s child who wanted to be introduced to the class, causing general laughter from the students in full concentration.
They don’t really appreciate distance education, because they miss school, friends and these moments of communication. But at the end of October, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit Lebanon, they have no choice but to get used to it. True, public schools opened their doors on October 12, but only for classes in …