Wednesday, 08 September 2021 06:55

Connection issues for rural students

Written by  Jessica Marshall
Lockdown has again highlighted the issue of internet connectivity for those in rural areas. Lockdown has again highlighted the issue of internet connectivity for those in rural areas.

As many students continue their online learning amid Alert Level Three and Four lockdowns, it – again – highlights the issue of internet connectivity for those in rural areas.

President of the Post Primary Teachers Association (PPTA) says Covid-19 lockdowns have further highlighted issues of connectivity in education. Melanie Webber says internet connectivity has proven to be an issue during this lockdown.

“It’s absolutely an issue,” Webber told Rural News. “We’re aware of areas where they don’t have connection – you can get a device but without internet it’s not a huge amount of use.”

She says that while schools are able to send out packs of hard copies of classwork for students to work on during lockdown, those students are still being impacted, particularly at the secondary school level.

“It’s quite difficult to tailor those when you’re in a level four situation for the specific coursework students are doing,” she says.

Webber says that the Ministry of Education has been unable to provide a solution other than the hard packs, “probably because there aren’t any”.

“When I say there aren’t any, the issues are those that cannot be fixed in this short period of time. The fact that we don’t have universal internet access and device access for students is a problem,” she says.

Webber adds that equitable access to internet has always been an issue in New Zealand.

“What the Covid lockdown has done is it has shone a light on what is an issue and it’s made it a real problem rather than just an inconvenience.”

In an update provided to schools and teachers, the Ministry of Education recommended using the hard packs to students who can’t access devices or the internet. The update came in the 24 August issue of the Ministry Bulletin for School Leaders. The update recommended educators create their own hard packs for students instead of relying on Ministry-produced packs.

“You know how best to meet the needs of your students and it is preferable for their learning if you can send materials to them rather than using Ministry-produced learning packs,” it reads.

The Ministry also notes that they have provided devices to schools for the use of students in Years 9-13. They are also recommending that for students who are encountering connectivity issues, they should contact their internet service provider.

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