Nfld. & Labrador

Poor internet access jeopardizing Nain students' academic future, say parents

Parents say multiple students at Jens Haven Memorial need to crowd around a single laptop and can't log onto their virtual classes on their own for their academic-stream courses.

Students taking virtual classes because of lack of staff but unable to log into courses

A wide shot of a yellow and brown building surrounded by trees and snow.
Parents of students in Nain are frustrated with the school's internet problems, says the region's MHA. (Hamlin Lampe/Jens Haven Memorial School)

Parents in Nain say a lack of reliable internet access is endangering their children's academic future.

According to a Labrador MHA, parents say multiple students at Jens Haven Memorial need to crowd around a single laptop and can't log onto their virtual classes on their own for their academic-stream courses.

Wilma Hay-Jenkins, who has a daughter in Grade 11 — who's an honour student — is frustrated with what's happening in the school. 

Hay-Jenkins told CBC News the internet problems, along with Jens Haven Memorial being short-staffed, could affect her daughter's academic future.

"With the shortage of teachers, what they're doing at the school is they have all the academic students enrolled in the CDLI program," she said, referring to the provincial Centre for Distance Learning and Innovation program.

"With the internet so bad here it takes our kids 20 to 30 minutes to even get onto the computer to do their lesson online," she said. "They're missing the first half of their class."

Hay-Jenkins said it adds up to students left playing catch-up and basically teaching themselves the material. 

"It's creating a problem because all of our kids are not on the same level. It's easier for our kids to have a teacher in the classroom because at least if they're falling behind, or need some extra help, the teacher is right there," she said.

"Adding all this on our kids is making it even more stressful on them."

Area MHA Lela Evans has being raising the parents' concerns in the House of Assembly this month.

"I am being told by parents that many of the students are switching from academic to general, that's the basic program, only because the online burden is too much for them," she said during question period on Thursday. "Last year, they were honours students; now facing a very limited career path."

Education Minister John Haggie said recruitment of teachers for rural areas of Newfoundland and Labrador is an ongoing challenge but noted one teacher was recently hired to work in Nain. 

Wilma Hay-Jenkins says it takes students in Nain as much as 30 minutes to log on to the internet, forcing them to miss half of an online class. (TippaPatt / Shutterstock)

Haggie said he learned about the internet issue only after Evans brought the issue forward and he would be "happy to look into it."

Haggie also said he has asked departmental staff to speak with staff in the Health Department because the health clinic in Nain isn't having the same internet problems. 

"I'm not aware of any difficulties there, so we may be able to find some synergies," he said. 

Hay-Jenkins said the clinic isn't having internet problems because 20 people aren't trying to use it at the same time. 

Hay-Jenkins said, she's concerned her daughter will have to go into the general studies stream and that it could have long-term consequences.

"You wouldn't have students in St. John's, for example, running into the problems that we're having on the north coast of Labrador. You wouldn't have that. If something did happen like that then somebody on the island in a bigger centre would make such a big fuss that it would be dealt with right away," she said. 

"People have this mindset that, 'Oh, it's north coast problems.' People shouldn't have that mindset just because we live on the north coast. We're just as important as anybody in St. John's, Clarenville, St. Anthony."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Labrador Morning