Students at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, struggle to maintain general well-being since the shift to remote learning in April 2020 after Jamaica recorded its first case of COVID-19 on 10 March 2020. This was instituted as the UWI, along with the education sector, as a whole, complied with the directives of the Ministry of Health in its attempt to curb the spread of the virus.
The enforced isolation has negatively impacted thousands of students. Among them are Ronessa Harriot, second-year Entertainment and Cultural Enterprise Management (ECEM) student at the UWI, Mona, who told the Jamaica Monitor that since the start of the pandemic, she has been experiencing, mental, physical and emotional challenges. “My physical wellbeing definitely got impacted, because at the start of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I was working out, I was being active, but eventually I got depressed and I just stopped. I gained weight and I am feeling even more depressed about the weight that I have gained, so mentally, emotionally and physically I am not doing well,” she said.
Harriott also said that her parents sometimes created a toxic environment at home during this period of remote learning. This toxic environment sometimes affected her moods and how she reacted to her schoolwork and assignments. She recounted an unnecessary argument with her parents coupled with the malfunctioning of the school’s online learning environment (OURVLE) which caused her to fail a test. “The thing is my parents are always up in my business and sometimes they are toxic. I ended up failing a test by default and got zero out of twenty percent, that just led me into a downward spiral,” she said.
Tyreke McLean, third-year marine biology major, also at UWI, said he had to babysit during this period of remote learning. “Because of the whole COVID situation, and because my brother is a toddler, he isn’t able to go to face-to-face school. So, I actually have to stay home and babysit, while my mom goes to work,” he said.
Shadae Barnett, final year student who lives in a crowded household, described online learning as challenging, especially on the recent no-movement days. “I have to try and train myself every minute not to be distracted because I live in a household that has a lot of people in it. There is noise, everybody’s at home, so it’s challenging for me,” she said. Barnett also noted that her internet is slow and unstable. “The first day of school, I was in one of my history classes and while in the middle of class, the internet went and shortly after, the light just gone,” she said.
Mary Seacole Hall Chairwoman, Briana Edwards, said online learning posed a challenge in terms of trying to balance her job, school and other co-curricular activities. “When online school started and I started to work and going to school and I was a part of co-curricular activities, I developed major anxiety, my mental health degraded significantly. I started going to the doctor very often because I would have chest pains and it was because of the stress,” said Edwards.