05/25/2020, 15.19
SRI LANKA
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Sister Deepa Fernando: e-learning for students locked down by the coronavirus (video)

by Melani Manel Perera

The Holy Family Convent School offers 50 online classes. For Sri Lankan politicians, improving the education system is not a priority. Students from disadvantaged families should be helped.

Colombo (AsiaNews) – Sister Deepa Fernando, principal of the Holy Family Convent School in Colombo, spoke to AsiaNews about her human and professional experience during the lockdown caused by the pandemic. She noted that in order to “allow students to continue studying,” her school set up “online facilities to support our students,” namely a Learning Management System (LMS), which was a “success”.

The lockdown has forced students to stay home. How do you teach to them?

For us, the lockdown is a new experience. Right away I thought it would last a long time, so we had to intervene to allow our students to continue studying. Our school was already equipped with an LMS. We set it up to cope with crisis situations such as last year's Easter attacks. We boosted it for the coronavirus emergency, creating online classes.

A school is not a school without students. There is a positive aspect though [to the current situation], namely our kids can learn to study in a new way, and take advantage of all the benefits of the digital age. We have 50 online classes, which cover all teaching levels. We can check who is following a lesson at any time, and we are developing online exams.

Is the government doing anything to help students from disadvantaged backgrounds?

For our leaders, improving the education system is not a priority. They create illusions with their announcements, but they know nothing of the difficulties many Sri Lankan students face. There should be specific protocols for dealing with emergencies, such as the current one.

Above all, children and young people from poor families must be guaranteed the possibility of studying; they are the first victims in a crisis. Successive governments have never tried to overcome the gap between urban and rural areas. These differences must be eliminated, so that everyone can have the same opportunity.

Will you share your experience?

We are ready to help the schools that don't have an LMS like us. I have already discussed this with several colleagues; students from their schools can connect to our online classes. We can also send school materials through WhatsApp or by email.

We need to think differently and creatively to overcome this unjust system, where so many students are left behind. COVID-19 is a threat to humanity, but at the same time it forces us to change our lifestyle and show more compassion for those who suffer.

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