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Venezuelans struggle to educate kids amid pandemic lockdown

SeattlePI.com Friday, 15 May 2020 ()
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — María Figueroa often climbs onto the rooftop of her building in Venezuela’s capital clutching a phone and laptop looking for a signal and has paid to run an internet cable to her neighbor’s home, as she struggles to educate her children remotely amid a coronavirus lockdown.

But these work-arounds often end in frustration, she says, reflecting the difficulties of teaching children online in technology-challenged Venezuela, where flipping on the light switch can be a luxury and a strong internet connection a dream. The government of President Nicolás Maduro has closed schools and ordered teachers and students to finish the year remotely amid the pandemic.

“It’s the most important tool we could have right now,” said Figueroa of the spotty internet service. “And it’s the least reliable.”

Figueroa, 34, considers herself lucky to have a smartphone and laptop on loan from work as an office assistant. But they’re often useless because she has no internet connection in her poor Caracas neighborhood of Catia, and the telephone rarely gets a signal inside her apartment.

So she, like many Venezuelan parents, scramble to make do. She says she takes photographs of her children’s written homework and quickly hits “send” when a signal appears. She also paid a neighbor $5 — more than most earn here in a month — to run a 50-meter (165-foot) cable to their home and connect.

Venezuela was among Latin America’s first nations that went on lockdown shortly after the first cases of the novel coronavirus were discovered here in mid-March. Officials say they’ve so far detected fewer than 500 cases and they attribute 10 deaths to the virus. Critics of Venezuela's socialist government say that’s an under-count and warn it could easily spread in a country with extreme shortages of...
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