Parents react to summer vacation: As coronavirus cases in the country continue to surge, states are reconsidering guidelines issued for educational institutions to adjust them in view of the pandemic situation. Earlier today, Delhi and Bengal announced a preponement of summer vacation for schoolgoing students.
Directives have been issued to advance the break to April 20, Tuesday. Full details here. The national capital, among the worst-hit states currently, recording a tally of 25,462 cases on April 18, is also moving into lockdown for a week effective tonight. More on Delhi curfew here.
A few days ago, the centre and many state education boards announced that exams for classes 10 and 12 would be cancelled or postponed in view of the COVID-19 surge. While a large portion of parents and students expressed relief, since they had been rallying behind reconsideration of board exams, the update on pushing of dates had received mixed reactions.
News of the vacation preponement also seems to have drawn similar feedback.
Venu Kapoor, mother to a tenth grader in Delhi, tells SheThePeople, “I feel uncertain and unsure with respect to the decision of the school vacation taken by the Government. The online system seemed to be working just fine. It helped create a study timeline/schedule for the kids.”
Schools had made the shift to online Zoom classes soon as the pandemic led to a shutdown of basic routines last year and had been continuing since. The culture of online classes too has garnered extreme reactions on the scale of benefit. Read about Zoom fatigue here.
Reacting to the incoming lockdown and vacation, Shaili Chopra, mother to two, a 7-year-old and 3-year-old, feels, “Our children are suffering at so many counts. Their mental health is so fragile. While many have gotten used to the zoom school life, just the constant worry around following COVID protocols has our children tied in knots.”
Parents React To Summer Vacation, School Timelines: Does It Bring Respite Or Worry?
More than the technicalities inherent in online schooling systems, a big part of the stressor – for students, and their parents and teachers as well – appears to be coming from offline realities. Notwithstanding the timetables that are in place for children at home, parents claim the chaos and sense of doom emanating from COVID-19 headlines, affected patients close to home, and continuous home lockdowns have potential to affect the youth’s mental health.
“Our school has been incredible in the last year,” Rosa Basanti, mother to two at a Delhi-based school tells us. “But everyone is impacted right now, so many people have tested positive – students, families of student, teachers and their families. Everyone needs a break… The Delhi Government has gone ahead and taken a pro active step because action is needed now.”
The online system, whenever it reopens, will still be viable during the pandemic, “so the summer heat won’t be an issue,” the parent adds.
“When our kids hear their friends’ parents are down with COVID or has lost a family member or even hear their teachers are sick and absent, they are traumatised. This reality is hitting everyone, and our children too are suffering,” Chopra says.
Harpreet Suri, popular as Mom Wears Prada on social media, hails the early vacation, saying, “In the current situation, the move by the government seems apt and wise. Teachers were being exposed as many were visiting school. Families including children are being caught in the COVID-19 trap now. It’s getting difficult to cope up with school pressure. So with this move, teachers and students will get much-needed rest.”
“Virtual schools have been a necessary innovation in the most unusual year, which seems to be continuing. It gave children a routine, interaction with peers thereby creating some normalcy in their life,” says Neil Jarial, Delhi-based mom to two. She says, 14 months down things have changed a lot. “This year with COVID at its peak and children susceptible to the new strains of the virus, closing schools early maybe the need of the hour. When children see and hear that a number of classmates have taken ill, it causes a great deal of stress and anxiety. Therefore it is a good decision to close the virtual schools for an early summer holiday and let the children recharge themselves mentally and emotionally.”
Is Students’ Mental Health Okay? Parents Push To Call This Year A “Zero Year”
There has been immense discourse around the pandemic affecting mental health in general, but potentially serving a blow harder to young students who have been without social contact and regular teenage experiences for over a year now. Parents and teachers feel that the brunt is contributed to in large part by the online schooling culture, which despite its upsides, bears some pitfalls too.
Anupama Kathuria, a teacher for over two decades, tells us, “Online classes have become a reason for a lot of physical problems among children, teachers and parents like weak eyesight and posture problems. I think advancing the summer break is a good chance for all – parents, teachers and students to relax a little. This will also help everyone to focus on themselves and their health. Education can be resumed later.”
Parents agree that a second option doesn’t exist right now besides Zoom classes, as regards children’s safety is concerned. But as schools move toward summer breaks, it gives a moment to pause and ponder whether there’s enough wholesome education in the system or not.
“Online classes can keep children engaged but they cannot have a great learning environment. It is impossible to expect that a teacher can keep a tab on all the children especially young kids who are learning languages and numbers. It is time that we call this year a zero year,” Deepshikha Chakravarti, a Maharashtra-based mother of a 5-year-old says.
The centre, Monday, greenlit vaccinations for citizens aged 18 years and above. Details here. It brings a huge chunk of the population into the fold of inoculation against the virus, and yet another concern comes riding.
“We cannot afford to reopen schools as long as we ensure that children of all ages are vaccinated against coronavirus,” Yamini Pustake Bhalerao, mother to a 6-year-old in Maharashtra says. “With rising reports of increasing mild to moderate symptoms and overall COVID-19 infections among children, it is simply not worth the risk. Yes, many children are losing out on education. It is tragic that we have not managed to resolve issues of data connectivity etc. to ensure that this doesn’t happen. However, we need to ask ourselves. Is it worth the risk at all?”
When will the school-going public get their jabs? Should teachers and school staff be fast-tracked for priority when vaccinations open? Does the decision to keep school students below 18 out of the vaccination drive indicate that schools may not open back up anytime soon?