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Jamaican teacher turns walls into blackboards to teach students outdoors

Taneka Mckoy project is as relevant as many schoolchildren in Jamaica do not have access to the necessary technology or the internet - a problem for many families in Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the epicentres of the pandemic.

By: Reuters | Kingston (jamaica) | Updated: October 31, 2020 5:31:26 pm
Jamaica, wall backboards, Coronavirus, education, COVID-19 Jamaica updates, Trending news, Indian Express news, lesson on wall painted backboards.Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps with her students as she teaches a lesson with a blackboard painted on a wall, in a low-income neighbourhood, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kingston, Jamaica.(Picture credit: Reuters)

With most schools in Jamaica still closed due to the pandemic, schoolteacher Taneka Mckoy every day braves the risk of stray gunshots from gang warfare and the oppressive Caribbean heat as she trudges around her inner-city Kingston community to write lessons on blackboards painted on its walls.

Parents and children of primary school age take photos on their phones of the lessons or write them down in a notebook. Later, the children pass by Mckoy’s home to hand in or pick up their homework, wearing face masks and respecting social distancing measures while they stand in line.

Jamaica, wall backboards, Coronavirus, education, COVID-19 Jamaica updates, Trending news, Indian Express news, lesson on wall painted backboards. Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps teaches a lesson with a blackboard painted on a wall to her students from a low-income neighbourhood, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kingston, Jamaica October 27, 2020. (Picture credit: Reuters)

Mckoy, 39, said she felt compelled to start the project when the new coronavirus reached Jamaica seven months ago and the government closed down its schools in order to contain infections.

“I said that if we don’t meet them and bring them (to learn), the family would have lost this opportunity that lies within these inner-city community children,” she told Reuters. “I said I have to do something.”

First, Mckoy got her husband to paint nine blackboards, then she started getting up before dawn to plod through a warren of muddy lanes and potholed streets to write numeracy and literacy lessons on them in green, purple and white chalk.

Jamaica, wall backboards, Coronavirus, education, COVID-19 Jamaica updates, Trending news, Indian Express news, lesson on wall painted backboards. Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps teaches a lesson using blackboard painted on a zinc fence, in a low-income neighbourhood, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kingston, Jamaica October 27, 2020. (Picture credit: Reuters).

The teacher, who is now joined in her mission by other teachers, including her 23-year old daughter, estimated she is now reaching around 120 children.

And while lessons resumed earlier this month online, her project is as relevant as ever because many schoolchildren in Jamaica do not have access to the necessary technology or the internet – a problem for many families in Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the epicentres of the pandemic.

Jamaica, wall backboards, Coronavirus, education, COVID-19 Jamaica updates, Trending news, Indian Express news, lesson on wall painted backboards. Educator Taneka Mckoy Phipps during her lesson with a blackboard painted on a wall, in a low-income neighbourhood during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Kingston, Jamaica. (Picture credit: Reuters).

Locals say her lessons provide a respite from the harsh realities of the community.

“Right now the community we are living in is very violent, and it affects the kids, so if they can come and see the work on the board, at least something can occupy their time,” said local mother Natalie Turner.

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