Chilean student hits the roof for online classes during pandemic

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - To keep from falling behind in her studies amid the coronavirus pandemic, first-year Chilean college student Paulina Romero climbs onto her roof each day in search of a cell signal strong enough to transmit her online classes.

In this rural corner of South America, flanked by the high Andes on one side and the vast Pacific on the other, a strong internet connection is far from guaranteed.

Romero, who is studying chemistry and pharmacology, sits atop a corrugated metal rooftop wearing pink sneakers and a mask as she signs on to her online classes. The 18-year old from San Ramon, not far from an area hard hit by the pandemic, says the fast-approaching winter rains have only made things worse.

“There are times when the roof is so wet you can´t climb it,” she said. Her parents, she said, have built a ladder that allows her easier access to rafters, and then, the roof, without sliding.

Chile is now in the throes of the pandemic, reporting nearly more than 90,000 total coronavirus cases and upwards of 900 deaths. The number of new cases emerging daily has quadrupled in May, to around 4,000 per day.

Schools in Chile were closed in March, early in the southern hemisphere school year. Officials have yet to announce a date to re-open.

Romero´s mother, Gloria Benavides, says she worries about her daughter perched on the roof, especially on the cold and wet days of winter, but sees no other option.

“She doesn’t want to miss classes,” said Benavides. “But she also feels helpless, because she can´t connect {to the internet}.”

Reporting by Reuters TV, writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Diane Craft