Whenever stories about walking miles to get an education are told, most people think about the experiences of their grandparents or great grandparents.
But for the children of Rincon Village, Las Cuevas, this is their present-day reality.
The community, nestled in the foothills of the Northern Range and home to the stunning Rincon Waterfall, has no cellphone reception or internet signal. This means that the over 50 students living there must walk to the Las Cuevas Main Road if they hope to get an internet signal to join their virtual classes.
Petal Walters, Jarod Clement and Isiah and Levi Walters sit on the side of Rincon Road, Las Cuevas, doing their online classwork, as it’s the only place they can get internet in the area.
Jared Clement, 21, a second-year student at UWI-Roytec, says he walks three kilometres from his home every day. Clement has virtual classes once a week but on the other four days, he accompanies his two younger brothers, 17 and seven, to the main road.
“When you come out here on the junction, the wifi boxes will work. When we are home, you cannot get a phone signal, far less for an internet signal. So having data does not make any sense. It is very hard to make that walk every day, getting up early because my younger brothers have classes starting from half seven in the morning,” Clement said.
Clement said they go to a friend’s house where he can sit with his laptop and help his younger brothers through their classes. Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, Clement said he has completed four courses thanks to the daily treks.
Nathaniel Pierre speaks to GML about the difficulties he has to go through to do online classes.
“It’s very difficult because sometimes you have to leave home without eating because of the time you have to get up and walking three kilometres with nothing in your stomach is not easy,” he said.
For single mother Sabrina Superville, the problem is multiplied by five. Her eldest son Nathaniel is a Form One student at the Barataria South Secondary School, while her four younger children attend the Las Cuevas Primary School.
Superville said she was able to purchase one tablet and a WiFi box about two weeks ago. On a daily basis, she gives the devices to Nathaniel, who packs them into his school bag and leaves the house on his bicycle for classes.
Nathaniel said he has two periods of virtual classes a day.
“Sometimes it does be real hard to get up so early to ride out the road for class…and if my bike not working good, the walk takes me about half an hour, sometimes I miss half the class,” Nathaniel said.
Petal Walters helps her cousins Isiah and Levi with their work on the side of the road, as it’s the only place they get internet access.
Superville said she tries her best to teach her four younger children at home but she admitted she often has trouble understanding some of the work assigned to them.
“My four that going primary school, the teachers do packages for them. Sometimes, it have some of the work that I do not understand and I have to call the teacher to explain it to me what the work is about, or sometimes I try to figure it out for myself to explain it to them,” she said.
However, even those calls are often impossible for Superville.
“For instance, I does walk by my father garage to put my phone in a certain angle just to call the teacher or somebody, sometimes they tell me put data on my phone, yes I have data on my phone but I still will not get the full service to go up on WhatsApp or Google, so it does be real hard.”
A group of children play on Rincon Road, Las Cuevas.
If the children are assigned projects that require internet research, Superville usually makes the trek to the main road with them, where they do the research and write down their findings before returning home.
Superville is appealing to service providers to bring their technology to Rincon.
“At least if they could come and run lines or put up a cell tower so the children wouldn’t have to be struggling with their homework, especially my big son who going secondary school,” Superville said.
Anyone wishing to contact Superville can contact her at 326-3904 between the hours of 6 am to 10 am, when she will be at work outside of the community.