Sister Ruth Montrichard

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More than half of the students who attend Servol are not accessing online teaching or are not even getting the print packages being offered by the school.

This was the word yesterday from Servol chairperson Sister Ruth Montrichard, who admitted she is concerned by this and the impact it is having on the students’ mental health.

Speaking with Natalie Legore on CNC3’s The Morning Brew yesterday, Sister Ruth said despite the push for online learning nationally and their best efforts, some students are falling by the wayside because they just don’t have devices or internet access.

“We have about 1,200 students across the board and I would say only about a third of them are able to access online learning and even that has serious problems,” Montrichard said.

Zeroing in on a figure, she added, “I would say about, offhand, about 500 or 700. The others would come on intermittently and they log on and then they disappear. Then we do packages, the parents don’t come for the packages and if they do come they come two days late and then they don’t bring it back.”

Montrichard, who has been involved in community and social work for decades, said even for the students who do access online learning, it may not be applicable to them since the programmes offered by the school are all skills-based, like plumbing and welding to name a few. She said this makes it very difficult for students to follow the course work, since they require practical work.

She said she fears the students are also just receiving information and not the education they require.

Montrichard explained that education does not only include books but requires mentoring, motivation, discipline and interaction with teachers and schoolmates.

“I really worry about what is happening to these young people, between the ages, especially the older ones, who, as you know, can get into all sorts of situations that very often are negative rather than positive,” she said.

“I think one of the things that worries me, with the online learning, is we’re doing information, not education because education has other aspects. Social, spiritual, creative, intellectual fine but when you have unmotivated students, it’s very difficult to tell them come online. Even the discipline of coming to a centre every day. These children are not accustomed to getting up early.”

Montrichard said she does not believe students are actually learning despite their efforts to engage with students, even using their phones.

She explained that many of the students who attend Servol have not had a smooth journey through the conventional education system and this, coupled with other issues, leaves them exposed to manipulation from the criminal elements.

She also said the lack of interaction in the physical classroom, along with learning struggles, may also lead to mental health problems.

“It’s not easy for parents, they’re struggling and their children are the ones, I am really concerned about the mental health of children. And even for those who can get online, we have so much research showing that children should not be in front of a computer for more than a certain time, it damages their brain.”

Montrichard said she is hoping that they can return to a classroom setting even in small groups on alternate days. She added that the present system may also lead to problems in the future when it comes to employment and job performance.