Online Schooling Is Here To Stay, Whether We Want It Or Not

We have been through this drill unprepared, so walking into it knowing what is in store is a bit easier, but it is a walk in the garden for sure.

Yamini Pustake Bhalerao
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Online schooling and COVID: In February this year, we were looking at the bright prospect of young kids soon returning to schools. There were talks of new sessions to begin offline from April, with young ones all excited about meeting their friends and teachers after a long gap of one year. It is mid-April now and we are staring at the prospect of another lockdown in Maharashtra, with a steep rise in COVID-19 cases across the country. As if the situation wasn't daunting enough, reports have emerged indicating that the coronavirus infection is on rise among children in this second wave.

According to reports, children are showing mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 whereas earlier children remained mostly asymptomatic. Close to 80,000 children across five states in India have tested positive for COVID-19 since March this year. In Maharashtra alone, more than 60,000 children got infected with the coronavirus between March 1 to April 5, of which 9,882 children were under five years of age.

My daughter hasn't stepped out of our house for a month now, something she had to do last April as well. The classes for new session have begun, but again, we are sitting for two hours in front of the computer screen half-heartedly, as she peers down at her friends and teachers via a Zoom call. We are not back to square one, I would say that.

For starters, we know where we have to upload our homework and how. We know that kids will have online multiple-choice question papers to solve almost every month for each subject. We won't fret when the internet goes off or if there is a power cut, because there will be revision classes for each chapter for sure.

We have been through this drill unprepared, so walking into it knowing what is in store is a bit easier. But that doesn't mean we can take online schooling and its impact on children for granted. A few days ago my seven-year-old dreamt that she was in school, playing with her friends. Who knew children would miss going to school! The other day she had a bit of a meltdown and said, "Mom I want to punch this corona in face." We are doing our best to ensure a situation where we come into a punching distance with corona simply never arises, but clearly, the situation is wearing out children. They have been incredibly patient, but now the ordeal is getting to them. Kids are meant to be outdoors, not sit at home and eye this outside world wistfully.

But what else can parents do, apart from ensuring that kids continue to learn as much as through yet another scholastically fractured year and above all, stay safe? Do I let my kid have extra screen-time to help her cope better, now that we have run out of ideas to keep her engaged? What about her eye-sight then? How do I deal with her uncharacteristic anger and frustration? Even as I write this out I know how privileged we are, as our biggest worries are to keep a child mentally and emotionally healthy. How many parents are even in the position to think on these lines? However, I will shamelessly count my blessings.

The second wave of pandemic has hit the realisation into our senses that all will be not well soon. That this crisis will take its own sweet time to resolve, whether we have any patience for it or not. Which means online classes are not only here to stay for sometime, they could even continue long after the current crisis is over. Till we know any better, all us parents can do is hug our children, tell them everything will be fine one day, and continue uploading homeworks, assignments, classworks, tests etc on a repeat mode.

Image Credit: Baby

The views expressed are the author's own.

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