Czech state is failing to coordinate distance learning for thousands of children during COVID-19, nonprofits alone can't fix it
Until recently, almost all schools in the Czech Republic, with the exception of some nursery schools and special schools, had been closed since mid-October as part of the Government's official efforts to get the COVID-19 pandemic under control, and instruction was required to be provided online. Schoolchildren throughout the country have been grappling with enormous obstacles to participation if they do not have the necessary equipment and Internet access in their own homes.
Many parents of school-aged children are either unable to aid them with distance learning, not coping well with providing such assistance, or not willing to help in the first place. Romani community member and journalist Richard Samko has interviewed Zuzana Ramajzlová, head of educational services at the People in Need organization, about what the situation is like for the childen in excluded localities with whom they work.
In the interview, Samko asks what kinds of barriers children are struggling with during distance learning. He also asks how organizations, parents, schools and state institutions are able to influence or are already influencing the quality of the instruction being provided online.
Samko also asks what parents without computers and Internet access can do to arrange such access for their families. Last month, according to then-Czech Health Minister Roma Prymula, the school closures were originally meant to last just until 2 November, when schools were meant to reopen just for those in lower primary classes.
That scenario did not transpire and the schools remained closed for a longer amount of time. On 18 November, first and second-graders in mainstream primary schools and all pupils attending special schools were allowed to return.
The plan is for all schools to be open by Monday, 30 November. Lower primary schoolchildren and ninth-graders will have no limits on their attendance, while upper primary schoolchildren will attend on a staggered schedule to keep classroom density down.
Romani students at all levels who are in difficult financial situations that endanger their ability to participate in distance learning because they lack technical support are receiving aid from the ROMEA organization. Thanks to private donors, including donors from within the Romani community who regularly support ROMEA's scholarship program, since distance learning became a challenge in the Czech Republic the organization has managed to donate almost 80 desktop computers, laptop computers and tablets to primary school pupils, secondary school and college students, and several schools as well, computer technology worth roughly half a million Czech crowns [EUR 19 000].
You can support Romani students in the Czech Republic by donating at http://www.romskastipendia.cz/darujte/ or by writing to firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you!
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