Fort McMurray tutors seeing increased demand due to pandemic

Fort McMurray’s tutors have been busy throughout the pandemic, with many saying they’ve seen their enrolment double. 

Phanisree Timmaraju, director of Brite Academy, said she had to hire two additional tutors to keep up with the demand. 

“Even now, every day we do get new inquiries,” said Timmaraju. She said many are looking for help with math and English.

In a typical year Timmaraju gets most of the inquiries in September and early December, but this year she has had people reaching out for tutoring almost every day. 

“They used to know whether they need tutoring or not at the beginning of the term,” said Timmaraju. 

She said some of the new students that have come in are around a year behind in their studies. 

“It’s a very significant impact on the children,” said Timmaraju. “It’s mostly the motivation to study. It’s very hard to maintain that.” 

Many parents have recently asked Timmaraju about getting their children in tutoring, but she’s booked-up. 

More students would fit into the online tutoring program, but Timmaraju said parents are mostly looking for in-person learning. 

Tammy McAnaul started tutoring six years ago. She said parents aren’t just asking for tutoring, they’re also asking for help teaching their children. 

“I’ve also seen an increase in my need at home to help my own daughter who’s in Grade 7,” said McAnaul.

Sometimes the solution is simple, like encouraging her daughter to reach out and ask her teacher more questions.  

McAnaul says she hasn’t noticed a large gap in her students’ reading, but said there is a noticeable difference in math. 

“There’s stuff that my grade nines and tens are learning this year that they didn’t get to before the pandemic,” said McAnaul.

She added that there have always been families that would like to get tutoring for their children, but can’t afford it. 

“It’s definitely worse since the pandemic,” said McAnaul. “There’s no funding or coverage or anything for that.” 

McAnaul isn’t the only one who has noticed families that can’t afford tutoring during the pandemic. 

Ijeoma Uchea-Ezeala is the director the is the director for the Kumon Math and Reading Centre in Fort McMurray. 

She says she tries to help families who can’t afford tutoring.

“People are being laid off, hours are reduced,” said Uchea-Ezeala. “Some parents are able to afford it. Some parents are not.”

Uchea-Ezeala said she would like to see grants from the province to help fund tutors. 

“This year we had over 90 per cent of parents asking, ‘Why is the government not giving funding for things like this?'”

Nicole Sparrow with the province’s education ministry told CBC News in an email that education funding needs to go to the classroom.

“The funding model directs as many dollars as possible to where it has the biggest impact for students, in the classroom — whether in-person or virtual,” she said. 

“We know it’s best to maximize taxpayer dollars to school authorities in order to meet the needs of students, as they are accountable for learning outcomes.” 

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