Crisis in Venezuela: the tricks of students to “hunt the internet in the street”

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Faced with the impossibility of having a connection at home, or due to the malfunction of the wi fi. many must go outside to connect to their classes online.

Jonathan sits in the street to capture with an old tablet the intermittent WiFi signal of a neighbor. Without a computer, it is your only option to do the tasks sent to you by WhatsApp since the coronavirus pandemic reached Venezuela.

Without face-to-face classes since March, some 8.2 million primary and high school students depend on a poor internet service and electronic devices unreachable for most when eight out of ten Venezuelans, according to a study by the main universities in this country of 30 million inhabitants, live in extreme poverty.

“It’s complicated, because sometimes I don’t understand anything,” 14-year-old Jonathán Figueroa, a student at a public high school where interaction with teachers is limited to sharing voice messages, readings and homework on WhatsApp, tells AFP.

Videoconference classes are unfeasible in that educational center, since the cost of a smartphone can represent months and even years of wages for families drowned by hyperinflation.

When President Nicolás Maduro declared a quarantine in March, Jonathan, who shares a claustrophobic rented room with his mother in a popular neighborhood in Caracas, thought that distance classes would be like “vacations,” but the passing of the months made him feel “overwhelmed”.

“Not only do I do my homework badly, but I waste time,” he laments as he strokes ‘Chocolate’, a cat he adopted during the pandemic. According to the Speedtest website, Venezuela ranked 169th out of 174 countries in the speed of its broadband connections in August, averaging 6.15 megabits per second compared to 36.63 in neighboring Colombia, ranked 81.

Unlike many of his peers, Jonathán has a used tablet that was given to his mother, Viviana Rodríguez, as payment for her work as a domestic worker.

Sustaining herself has been a “miracle,” says Viviana, a smiling 40-year-old woman born in Barranquilla (Colombia). Both were infected with covid in July and only the solidarity of neighbors who brought them food and water allowed them to have a hard time.

According to official figures, questioned by the opposition and organizations such as Human Rights Watch, which maintain that the real figure is much higher, as of Saturday there were 85,758 cases of the virus in Venezuela, with 725 deaths.

Escape from failures in the internet connection and also from common blackouts That hit Venezuelans can be impossible even if you have the privilege of a good economic situation.

In a middle-class area of ​​Caracas, the two children of pediatrician Luzmar Rodríguez and her husband Francisco, a plastic surgeon, do attend classes by teleconference organized by the private school where they study, but the family has had to take the car and go for a spin to hunt down a signal.

Although they have a computer, cell phones and services from different internet providers at home, Luzmar says that something as trivial as rain can make “nothing” work.

His eldest son, Francisco Jr, had to connect to his inaugural class from the parking lot of a pharmacy chain.

And on the days of Francisco Jr and Luciano’s exams, Luzmar does not go to work in case they need to travel by car.

The 2020-2021 school year began amid protests by teachers demanding “living wages.”

Morelis Carruido, a history and geography teacher with 16 years of experience, was fed up. “I am not going to attend virtual classes,” he tells AFP from an abandoned chemistry laboratory where he attended an assembly of educators.

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