Community ‘blackboards’ keeping students engaged

February 10, 2021
Eight-year-old Ajanie Stephenson from Tavares Gardens in St Andrew and a student at the Cockburn Gardens Primary and Junior High School, looks at school work placed on a wall located in the community on Tuesday.
Eight-year-old Ajanie Stephenson from Tavares Gardens in St Andrew and a student at the Cockburn Gardens Primary and Junior High School, looks at school work placed on a wall located in the community on Tuesday.
Tandeka McKoy-Phipps expresses concern about the engagement of students during a pandemic.
Tandeka McKoy-Phipps expresses concern about the engagement of students during a pandemic.
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Holding tightly to a $50 note, a boy walks barefooted on Payne Avenue.

Upon reaching a community notice board, he stops and intently observes what is written on the wall for about two minutes before continuing his journey. Since last March, the notice board has been filled with class work set by educator Tandeka McKoy-Phipps.

She warmed the hearts of Jamaicans across the globe when she volunteered to set work on the walls for children in Payne Avenue and other communities. When THE STAR visited her at the Union Gardens Infant School where she was teaching face-to-face classes, she said the only time she stopped putting up the lessons was during Christmas.

Enjoy the holidays

"I wanted the children to stay with their families and enjoy the holidays. Every morning at 6 o'clock my daughter and I along with the basic school workers go out and set the work for the day. I have never stopped, not even summer. I gave the children because I want them to keep up to date. Right now I am sitting here, I am tired," she said.

McKoy-Phipps said she also provides breakfast for more than 50 children daily as she believes it is challenging for some parents to always provide.

"A teacher from a rural community reached out recently and said she was having a low turnout in numbers and would want me to help her identify a spot in her community to do the board. There are a lot of schools who are not doing face to face so my initiative helps same way. There are parents who will tell me they are not sending the kids to school because they are afraid so it comes in handy for them," she said.

The island has seen a surge in COVID-19 cases, with Monday recording an all-time high of 403. As some Jamaicans suggested a suspension of face-to-face classes once again, McKoy-Phipps said she is not certain of that, although she is all for the use of technology.

"The abrupt online classes was probably not a good idea as the children were used to being in a classroom and this would have posed a lot of challenges. We, however, have to take our little time to transit in the new era because we are in the 21st century and whether we like it or not, it's technology that is running the world right now. But you have to take your little time and feed it to the children until we get there," she said.

She suggested that education during a pandemic should be approached from a community-based level.

"There are a lot of educated persons in these communities who are not employed so why not use them to help the children? At the end of the month the government could give them a stipend," she said. "Let them participate in workshops and have a trained teacher on board. This will help I believe because right now there is an education pandemic going on. We have to become situational leaders."

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