When the COVID-19 pandemic closed their sons’ school, Bolivian parents Angela Poma and Lorenzo Gutierrez made big changes. They wanted to give their boys Willy, 9, and Carlos, 11, the opportunity to take online classes.
The move to online education has forced the family to buy cell phones, for example. They also moved from a rural area to the town of Viacha, where they were able to find better internet service. Viacha is just 22 kilometers southwest of the capital La Paz.
Both parents earn their living as street vendors, that is, they sell goods and products on the streets. They don’t make a lot of money and spend up to $ 2 a day on internet service.
Poma and Gutierrez also didn’t know how to use their new devices.
“I couldn’t even turn it on,” Poma said of the cell phone. In the past, she had had a “call only and that’s it” phone.
The family weren’t alone in needing to learn how technology is used in their children’s classrooms. For example, a group called Internet Foundation Bolivia organized classes for parents on how to use their cell phones. The foundation also shows parents how to pay less for the internet so they can save money while their kids study online.
Not all moms, dads or teachers are familiar with the digital tools that exist for online learning, said Esther Mamani. She volunteers at the foundation.
Only about four in ten people in the Andean country have the Internet. The number drops to just three percent in more rural areas. This information comes from the national telecommunications company of Bolivia.
After finishing her studies, Poma went to the front of the class to receive her certificate. Her classmates put their hands together loudly for her. And later everyone smiled and waved their certificates for a group photo.
Now, Angela Poma and Lorenzo Gutierrez face the same problems of sharing and technological delays as other parents.
“The youngest uses the cell phone all morning and the oldest uses it from 3.30 am,” Poma said. “Sometimes I see my children arguing over the cell phone when the battery is starting to run out, ”she said.
Like other parents around the world struggling with online classes with their children, Poma wonders how effective online schooling is. “I wish the face-to-face classes would start soon,” she said. “My kids don’t learn much with this virtual education system.”
I am Alice Bryant.
Reuters news agency reported this story. Alice Bryant adapted it for Learn English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in this story
certificate – a document officially proving that you have completed your studies or training
battery – n a device which is placed inside a machine (such as a telephone, clock or car) to supply it with electricity