They do not particularly value distance education, because they miss school, friends and also these moments of sharing. But at the end of October, which is witnessing the increase of the Covid-19 pandemic in Lebanon, they have no choice but to get used to it. It is true that public schools opened their doors on October 12, but only for classes with official exams, third, first and final. As for private schools, they are largely dependent on authorities’ orders to close in many locations, but also in some from the devastation caused by the August 4 explosion. So, while waiting for the health review, on October 26, it’s running like clockwork for many students, who welcome online classes that are much more interactive than last year and the chance to get a little more sleep in the morning. For others, and not only the less privileged, it is suffering or even boredom. Questionable, repeated power outages, capricious internet, lack of adequate equipment or simply problems with concentration.
Internet and electricity outages
” No! Another internet outage! Every time the Wi-Fi connection goes down, Olina, a seventh-grader at the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul school in Broumman, gets angry. During two half-hour sections of French, she only managed to watch a quarter of an hour. “V it’s impossible for her to connect that day.” The password didn’t work,” her mother said helplessly. Worse, the girl is at risk of losing points if she’s marked as absent. That could affect her overall average. That’s why it’s necessary to inform her teacher via WhatsApp . She will also have to manage to restore the failed idea, because the teacher has to move on. For Waël, 9 years old, in CM1, at the Collège des Saints-Cœurs Sioufi, the problems come more from the power outages. ” It’s hard ! notes. By the time I reconnect, my classmates have already finished the exercise. »
Connectivity problems and power outages are major drags on online education in a country that provides electricity in spades, forcing participants to resort to neighboring generators. And the entire population is affected, students and teachers alike. This is how Noor, a 4th year student at Collège des Saints-Cœurs Sioufi, has seen his mathematics course postponed several times. “The teacher couldn’t connect,” he notes, referring to Wi-Fi quirks. Wealthy or underprivileged classes, no one is immune to any obstacle of online education. “The Wi-Fi connection at home has been down for three days without explanation. I have no choice but to connect my laptop to 4G so I don’t miss classes. The limit is quickly exceeded and my phone bill will explode,” worries Caline, a student at Melkart College. A charlatan who teases a young girl but makes her realize her privileged situation compared to so many students in the country who have to share their tablet or laptop with their siblings or choose not to take distance learning classes for financial reasons. . Saged Oleyan’s situation is particularly difficult. In a senior class at a public high school in Deir Kifa (Tyre) in southern Lebanon, a high school student said he was “desperate.” Because he currently has only two days of classes, “the school bus driver asked for too high a monthly salary.” It can’t even work online. “I don’t have the right equipment and I can’t afford to buy what I need,” laments the young man. Because her mobile “doesn’t have the option to download the Microsoft Team application” and her mother’s phone is being mobilized by her sister. “I already missed the practical work in mathematics, during which the teacher explained how to use the calculator”, regrets the bachelor. And when he complained to the facility management, he was told that it was not serious and that online teaching was only 10% of the courses. “I’m afraid I won’t pass the graduation. And only I would regret it,” he said helplessly.
This lack of concentration
Financial barriers to education affect a large part of the Lebanese population in the context of a falling pound and an acute economic crisis, not to mention that the August 4 explosion in the port of Beirut further weakened an increasingly vulnerable population. According to the World Bank, 45% of the Lebanese population lives below the poverty line. But apart from this serious problem, for which National Education has still not found any solution, online education is also criticized for other reasons.
Among them is the problem with the concentration of students, which puts a heavy burden on the mental health of parents and especially mothers of families. “If I don’t sit next to him, Roy, my 8-year-old son, who studied at the Saint-Vincent-de-Paul school in Bourj Hammoud, makes no effort,” laments Cindy, who, like many parents, plays both the roles of mother and teacher. Despite this, the young woman is professionally active and wouldn’t want to miss her working day in any way. “He gets up for yes or no, to drink water, to have something. Or it’s like he’s absent,” he notes. “Exercises that should only take a few minutes, then require several hours,” he laments, admitting that he sometimes loses his temper in this situation. “I would like school to start again,” she pleads. Because his son was a “good student” when he was in class.
The problem is all the more serious because many parents from rural areas have little education and do not know computers. “Most of the parents of our students are unable to help their children with their studies, even more so with online education,” notes Zeina Deriane, vice president of the NGO Paradis d’enfants, a group of three semi-free schools that educate 2,000 disadvantaged students. “In these times of economic crisis, their main concern is to provide food for their families,” he says.
Longer sleep time
Of course, everything is not black. Ms. Deriane notes “clear progress in distance learning compared to last year.” “The pace is slower than in the classroom. I definitely work a lot and miss my friends a lot. But I can sleep in longer in the morning and I don’t have to run to get ready,” admits Noor. “I can’t concentrate for a long time. But I can see that it is much better organized than last year and that the teachers have mastered the technique better,” says Caline. For many families, this learning is welcome even in this period of health uncertainty. “One of my four children has asthma. I’m afraid to see it contaminated. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, I’m calmer if I leave him at home, like his brothers and sisters, who are all educated at the Collège des Frères de Mreijé,” admits Mirvat, a stay-at-home mother. Despite the financial the difficulties of the family and the need to share the only computer in the house and two tired mobile phones, “the two oldest (the terminal and the third) can manage very well on their own”. The only problem that bothers her, apart from the repeated power outages and the Internet, are “headaches that children feel after spending the day with their heads wedged in front of screens”.
Finally, there is humor and those little anecdotes that brighten lonely mornings for students who miss their classmates, teachers and 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 brought into the classroom, causing generalized laughter from the students in full concentration.
They do not particularly value distance education, because they miss school, friends and also these moments of sharing. But at the end of October, which is witnessing the increase of the Covid-19 pandemic in Lebanon, they have no choice but to get used to it. It is true that public schools opened their doors on October 12, but only for classes on…