Let’s Make Online Learning Within Reach For All
This Op Ed was narrated to Adam Echelman as part of the Humanity in Action Alfred Landecker Democracy Fellowship.
By Tania Evora
Every child should have their own computer. When the pandemic hit, I suddenly became a full-time remote-working mother of three while working to get my Bachelor’s degree at Framingham State. I felt that I was failing as a mother because my children didn’t have the technology they needed to practice online learning. I am a native of Cape Verde and have struggled for years with English, housing, legalization and education. Along with my ongoing education, I also work three jobs, but I still struggle to pay my bills. The digital divide has only exacerbated these challenges.
Early in the pandemic, only my oldest daughter had a Chromebook. I lacked the money to buy a computer for my other two children. It took nearly 6 months after the start of the pandemic for my second daughter to receive a computer from Waltham’s Plympton Elementary School, but the policy only allowed for one Chromebook per household.
That meant my 8 year-old son had to wait. I shared my work laptop with him, using my phone instead during the day — sacrificing my own success in my job so that my son could succeed in his education. Finally, in October 2020, his school offered him a Chromebook too, and I’m grateful for that.
Some days, the internet would shut down, and my kids would scream at the same time, “Mommy can you help me? The internet is not working.” I have Verizon internet at home and pay $52.74 monthly, but it slows down when we use it on all of our devices.
My daughter has dyslexia and ADHD. When the teacher would tell the students over Google Meet to take a bathroom break, my daughter would forget to return to her computer until I reminded her. The reopening of the Boys and Girls Club provided her with the supplies and structured environment she needed for remote school.
I was so burned out from being home alone with my kids, but I know that online learning isn’t going away. I also know that policies like having one Chromebook per household don’t work and that online teaching needs to be better to support students with disabilities. Comcast has a program called Internet Essentials, but many people are confused or embarrassed to apply for assistance. Some cities are hiring “Digital Navigators” to help people gain access to these services. I’d love to see a similar program in my community soon.