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Tuesday, August 16, 2022

Back to school? Probably not

Besides, amid such chaos and uncertainty, the kids are sad, too.

Written by Leher Kala
New Delhi | June 8, 2020 11:22:55 am
COVID-19 restrictions, COVID-19 restrictions and educational institutions, kids and schools, Leher Kala column, indian express, indian express news When children go to school they come into contact with many more people than most adults do at work, providing more opportunity to get infected and in turn, bring the infection back home. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

News that primary schools opened across the UK last week prompted speculation on my parents’ WhatsApp group, on the likelihood of restrictions lifting for educational institutions post the summer break in India. Predicting what happens a month from now seems futile when every day reveals new, unsettling information on how worryingly slowly the COVID curve is flattening in India.  Alas, we may be permitted to dream. It’s impossible to ignore signs of virus-fatigue and a restless yearning to return to normal, whatever that might be. More than the lockdown being lifted, the first real sign of normalcy for many of us is to see our kids back in school in a familiar routine.

Haryana plans to experiment by beginning with classes for senior grades, on the premise that 15-year-olds can be counted on to understand how crucial social distancing is. Parents remain unsure of the wisdom in opening schools because so many problematic questions persist. Firstly, when children go to school they come into contact with many more people than most adults do at work, providing more opportunity to get infected and in turn, bring the infection back home. Even if primary school here opens by August, how does one ensure 4 to 10-year-olds stay far away from each other? In my opinion, it’s impossible. Is the bus still viable? Is it even fair to expect teachers to function in a classroom environment anymore, which is pretty much the opposite of social distancing? Much as we parents would heave a sigh of relief at the thought of dropping them at the bus stop even on a cold Delhi morning, I fear, it’s going to be a long time before children under 10 see a classroom again.

Most people create their professional lives counting on the fact that children, for the large part of the day, will be occupied in school. The pandemic has been hugely disruptive for working parents and students who’ve abruptly had to adjust to so much, not least of which are the questionable academic gains of sitting in front of a screen for four hours a day. Then, there’s the alarming effect of suddenly seeing everyone you know with a mask — I’m sure it can be very intimidating for a young person. As parents, even if you’re vigilant, kids pick up so much just from conversations, or while we’re watching the news. It was worrying for me to notice, my 8-year-old hasn’t complained once about so many drastic changes in her life. It’s probably because Covid-19 worries her too. From a busy school day to music lessons, playdates and birthday parties, her life has become painfully dreary, alone and indoors. In the initial stages of the lockdown, parents tried to organize Zoom playdates for the children but the novelty soon wore off. It’s hard pretending online compares to the real deal, of meeting your friends, face to face.

We’re all a bit disheartened and weary by now and when processing this extraordinary health crisis is overwhelming for adults, one can only imagine how confusing it must be for children. My daughter was full of questions when she happened to read in the newspaper that a 12-year-old child died of dehydration, walking home at the height of the lockdown. It’s an instinctive reaction, to want to shield a young mind, from such stories of hideous hardship. I have found, fudging reality leads to more confusion.  Much better to give them the gist of it in a matter-of-fact kind of way — not dwelling on it in detail — but not denying it either. We assume kids don’t need to know what’s going on but they’re on their own devices seeing the same dreadful images we are. If you don’t provide some explanation, the child in all likelihood presumes things are far worse than they actually are. About Covid, I tell my kids they’re living through a surreal time, a time they’ll be telling their grandkids about. Meanwhile, like everyone else, they must stoically bear up and face the remainder of this horrendous year.

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First published on: 08-06-2020 at 11:22:55 am
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