Today, we begin a new series related to a topic that’s on every parent’s mind these days—Education in the times of COVID 19.
Who would’ve thought that such a seismic change would happen in our lifetime? The shift from in-person schooling to virtual or online instruction has profoundly impacted our children’s education. Children, teachers, parents, and school administration—the adverse effects have spared no one group.
In the first place, a significant number of children haven’t had access to education on a virtual portal because of poverty. And for those who did access online schooling, the quality of education varied. Not being able to run and play freely with friends, or to grasp all the fear around people falling sick, staying indoors, increased time on gadgets—our children’s lives are topsy turvy.
As for teachers, many have lost their livelihood. They’ve had to find other ways to eke out a living. Nor has it been easy for those whose schools have access to equipment, technology, and training. It’s not a cakewalk to keep thirty to forty students engaged and make sure they understand and complete projects. While some school administrations were supportive, teachers in other schools struggled with the amount of work expected of them. Pay cuts, excess work, managing their homes, challenges just piled on.
Parents, especially mothers, felt the weight of their child’s education on their shoulders. They saw their child struggle to attend during classes and learned how to teach various concepts themselves. And if they were working parents, the juggle between home life and work-life took on a new meaning because now, they had to do more on the educational front as well.
That’s not all! Many schools closed during the pandemic, especially the smaller, local schools. Even well-established schools suffered because they couldn’t charge a fee from parents with no income.
Added to all this is the trauma of loss. SO many families were affected personally, especially during the second wave. If you didn’t lose someone in your family to COVID, you knew someone else who did. Children knew friends whose families couldn’t get a hospital bed or access to oxygen.
After all this, we get ready for in-person schooling. Are we prepared for it?
Thankfully, the vaccination numbers are up. But that is not enough, is it? Parents and teachers are rightfully worried about a possible spike in infection, especially amongst their children. Will schools follow safety protocols? Wait, do schools even have a safety protocol? Are the teachers going to do more work to keep the rooms clean and disinfected? Or Have school administrations hired more staff to do the job? How will they manage to keep young kids apart at lunch, and at play?
How about children’s classroom behaviour? They haven’t had the same degree of structured routine for the past 18 months. It will take time for many kids to pay attention in class and follow the teacher’s directions as they did before. Anxiety amongst children has shot up. When kids don’t feel safe, it shows up in their behaviour.
Are our school administrations prepared for these ? Have they organized a support system for students and teachers to help them with their academic and social-emotional needs? Have the teachers been trained to handle a crisis? Does the school have counselors—more than one to meet the needs of their student body?
There is no way we can go back to business as usual and focus on marks and grades without addressing the shortcomings in our education system. It is tough to make up a crisis of this magnitude. Still, it is an opportunity to overhaul how we provide academic instruction and emotional support to our children.
How do we do that? The first step is to take this opening and talk about it. In this series, we want to share with you first-person accounts from parents, teachers, and administrators about the impact COVID has had on their lives-personal and professional. They are from all walks of life. You will get to hear about their experiences and the changes they’ve had to make. Later, we will exchange ideas on how to move forward from the pandemic with support systems in place.