IT systems in Portugal’s schools “on brink of collapse” as distance-learning ‘set for long haul’

With all thoughts of an early return to the classroom obliterated by last night’s speeches from President Marcelo and prime minister António Costa (click here), schools up and down the country are described as ‘on the brink of technological collapse’ as they struggle with outmoded systems to run multiple features of distance-learning.

Explained one exhausted school director: “Our operative system and computers date back to 2007…”

“The network is weak; many times we are without internet. Servers go down, leaving teachers at home unable to access the programme to create summaries or register absences… There are days when our computers take 20 minutes just to open”, Pedro Tildes, head of Setúbal’s Escola Superior du Bocage told Correio da Manhã this week.

Says the paper: “School directors are in despair. They demand that the government comply with its ‘Action Plan for Digital Transition’ which pledged to equip all teaching establishments”.

Clearly even if there was the political will and the cash to do so, remedies wouldn’t come in time to save this 2nd academic period.

Issues with the notion of distance learning began almost before pupils switched on their computers: thousands had to return to schools as they simply didn’t have equipment at home to access the schools’ programmes (click here).

In Castro Daire, for example, pupils are still using the Magalhães computers brought in in the time of José Sócrates and handed out to primary school children who are now in their 20s (click here).

Said director of schools Luís Ferreira, “we have added memory (to them), and new hard disks, cameras and microphones, but it is not a good response, it’s just reasonable”.

Filinto Lima, the president of Portugal’s association of school directors, stresses schools need to be brought into the 21st century, in terms of technology.

They “need to have their entire IT network upgraded and reinforced”. The internet has to work, he said.

This was all “promised” by the government back in April, Mr Lima recalled – adding that ideally all schools should have a ‘technical assistant’ in place, to sort out issues as they arise.

The return to ‘distance learning’ in Portugal only began last Monday, with politicians at the time stressing the importance of it being as short-lived as possible. 

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