The kids are back to school; albeit virtually. This pandemic has really forced all of us to scramble and look for ways to adapt to the situation. Governments have been caught flatfooted, which has meant many kids missing out on the completion of the school year.
With community transmissions on the rise here, most probably public schools will be opening in Jan/ Feb when the new school year is set to begin.
Private schools have been engaging the government on reopening but one interesting thing to note is that even if the private schools were able to implement all possible Covid- 19 precautionary measures, the government will be reluctant to give them approval for the following reasons; it will be unfair to those in public schools, and there will also be immense pressure on the education ministry to reopen the public schools which are not ready. Keep in mind, some public schools are in such dilapidated states, one wonders where they till start. Some schools do not have running water, roofs, are dilapidated, classes are overcrowded, sanitation is pathetic, and receive little to nothing in terms of government support, how then will coronavirus transmission be contained?
As much as education is a basic right, the right to life is more important and our children’s lives must be protected by all means.
How we educate our children is changing. Even with the emergence of (allegedly) successful vaccines, things will not go back to normal fast. It could mean we have to homeschool our young ones for the first few years before they join face to face classes, as how will they learn effectively via Zoom/ Google classroom?
What does this also mean for the working parents or those with none or only one device between them and have more than one child?
My last born is joining Grade 1 and I am very excited but anxious too. This ‘new normal’ means his experience will be completely different from the norm as he has to meet his classmates online. Lucky for us kids adapt easily and I find they might cope with this better than we the adults.
I am appreciative of the schools’ efforts to maintain learning through this period too through online activities. It is not easy for the teachers too; and we need to remember the hard work they are putting in to transfer the teaching material online, record the instructional videos or teach live. That is no mean feat!
I have been following some conversations online and as much as some parents are feeling an extra burden, we should not forget the strain on the educators as well.
I also acknowledge that it is a privilege for those of us whose kids are able to continue learning. We should not take this for granted. Luckily the school is nearby so for the young ones we are getting weekly printed school work packets that are great, as it means less screen time for the kids, which is another worry for many parents.
For those having the kids home and not in class is also a great opportunity to impart knowledge without the confines of a classroom and rigid curriculum. Life skills; star gazing, learning through play or about nature, cooking, sewing, woodwork etc. There are so many ways we can still educate our children without the usual ‘schooling’. Let them plant flowers or trees, help in cleaning, baking, fixing the car or home repairs, they are still learning invaluable lessons.
Another important thing we need to do as parents is to mind our language and energy around our children too. Quit complaining about them being home or in class within earshot of your children. Watch the energy we give out too. Children learn more by what we do, NOT what we say. We are anxious but let us try to be optimistic with all that is happening.
Safety is also paramount. Let us know where our kids are and who they are with. Also online safety, what precautions are we taking during the online classes? Do we sit with the kids or leave them to their own devices? Do we check what they are doing online? Do we talk to them about online dangers?
Gone are the days when kids were instructed and expected to toe the line without question. These days we have to explain and discuss with them (at their level of understanding obviously) on what is safe, permissible and in line with our values. We are our children’s first educators, whether they are in school or not, and this time we have with them is best to instil family values that they will never forget.
We are living in interesting times indeed.