Many parents and teachers have criticised the Home-school Packages (HSPs) provided by the Government because they believe it is not effective for students.

Parents and teachers on Malekula, Pentecost and Ambae said the HSPs offered to children around the country during this COVID-19 lockdown could prove disastrous for their education.

In the recent weeks, schools around the country have distributed lesson packages to the children following the announcement of Level 3 alert.

The community outbreak has caused schools to closed their doors. The Government through the ministry and the department of education and training have published the audio and written HSP and have managed access online.

But some teachers said the HSPs are too general.

At Melsisi Primary and Secondary School, teachers had gathered to discuss how to adapt the content of the HSPs to the situation of their school and their students.

On Malekula, Lakatoro school had distributed HSPs to students intending for students to only rely on this for 3 days. Teachers did not expect that the lockdown restrictions would be extended for another two weeks.

The local lockdown at Lakatoro ended last Friday, but now schools on the island are to abide by nationwide lockdown imposed by the government.

In Port Vila, Sainte Jeanne d’Arc school teachers met on Monday and Tuesday to discuss the HSPs and selected the lessons that are suitable for their students.

On Monday, grade 4 and grade 6 teachers met to finalize their own school packages and on Tuesday, their colleagues of year 1 to year 3 were back at school to finalize theirs.

Sainte Jeanne d’Arc school has now created a Facebook account for the school as one of the ways for the students to communicate with their teachers.

Parents have already started to collect the lessons home package for their children.

Concerning the parents, Chief Visisio Bubunbah from Vansemakul in Central Pentecost believes the HSPs will not help children.

“I can understand and speak a bit of French, but what about the parents who can’t understand Bislama, French and English,” he questioned.

“At home, I have a granddaughter who is studying at Ranwadi high school.

“She is asking me questions when she does not understand her lessons. I can help her in some fields that i have a little knowledge on, such as agriculture. But as for the other lessons, I can’t help.”

The Chief explained that teachers have been trained to deal with the difficulties of a child’s studies, but not the parents.

He said maybe in Port and Luganville the government’s HSPs will work, but not in the islands as the environment in the village cannot be compared to town life because there are more challenges.

“In the villages, parents will think more about their gardens than the education of their children. I even saw some parents who took their children with them to work in the garden,’’ chief Bubunbah said.

Parents and teachers share the view that the virus is here to stay, and the Government should find ways for the students to learn despite the virus, but not by HSPs.

A teacher claimed the HSP was drafted in a rush last year and it need more attention by the education authorities.

Another teacher said the important thing for the children now is to keep e-learning while they are at home because languages are always barriers in the learning system for students.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education and Training (MoET) said the HSPs are intended to give children the opportunity to continue their education, while in lockdown and to give teachers enough time to prepare HSPs that align with their scheme of work.

“To implement all the preparedness plan, the Curriculum Development Unit has prepared a standard HSP for ECCE, Primary and Junior Secondary for 10 weeks, to ensure continuity of children’s learning at home,” said Minister responsible for Education, Samson Samsen.

Additionally, the HSP is intended to be easy teach packages that are inclusive to all students. This means it caters to students with special needs as well.

Minister Samsen said all the activities within the HSP, should be taught according to the instructions given and to respect each child’s level, making sure parents give the right amount of work.

In some activities, teachers can adapt the instructions to ensure child with additional needs can join.

All teachers are also reminded to continue with developing HSPs, making sure that all the instructions given is simplified and should be understood easily by all parties concerned. Teachers can prepare a timetable for parents to follow up on the children’s HSPs.

“If parents are busy with work during this lockdown, more senior students can help by leading the group and all the lessons, or a member of the family can do so,” Minister Samsen said.

On behalf of the MoET, Minister Samsen appealed to everyone to help with the delivery of education, using the HSPs.

“We would like for parents and teachers to work together as much as possible, and not just limiting their efforts to the distribution of HSPs, but to follow up the progress of learning,” he said.

“Teachers and school administrations should provide their contact details should parents need to contact them for additional assistance. Most parents have access to smartphones and thus, use social media platforms like Facebook. We therefore, encourage all schools to create their own FB page/group to allow ease of communication to all levels.”

The MoET shares that it has three Facebook pages for ECCE, Primary and Secondary, namely ECCE Home School, MoET Vanuatu; Primary School Home School, MoET Vanuatu; Secondary School Home School and MoET Vanuatu.

Parents are encouraged to access these pages and ask questions.