Education in the times of COVID-19: The challenges

By Garen Warjri Panor

Shillong, Sept 2: Almost six months have passed since schools, colleges and other education institutions closed doors owing to the COVID-19 Pandemic. Teaching has moved on from classrooms to electronic devices, but how is education really faring?

Shillong Mail interviewed few parents who spoke about their personal challenges in adapting to this new dynamic.

Challenges of online learning, are children benefitting from it?

Ricky Marshal Synnah – Working in Police Department

“There is a huge difference in learning through online medium and in classrooms. Right now, teachers only send assignments through WhatsApp. On the other hand, in a classroom, students can clear their doubts by asking questions.”

Prashanta Dey – Shopkeeper, Police Bazaar

“We have only one mobile in our household, so my son has to use my mobile. His classes start at 9:30 am and end at 11 am. Only after his classes gets over, I can come to the market and open shop. I don’t have money to buy another mobile for him. Due to the lockdown, my shop was closed for so many days. I have to pay my house rent, shop rent, and electricity bill, so I cannot buy another mobile.”

B. Pyrtuh – Street Vendor, Police Bazaar

“My daughters in Class 2 and Class 9 receive assignments through mobile phone but since the lockdown, my son has never received any study material. I have only one mobile phone but when I come to work, I can’t just leave the mobile at home also. My daughters’ teacher calls me time to time and tells me to make sure my children follow the online schedule. She asked me if I have a television for lessons, I do have one, but it is not connected to the cable. This month they will have online examinations.”    

Dr. Twinkle Suhasini R. Marak – Assistant Director, MATI/ Under Secretary, Health & Family Welfare Department

“Classes are now only being given online and it’s become different for children to try to manage their studies on their own and also for parents – both to help out their children in their studies and to manage their own working timings. The teachers are also trying their best, they are performing their duties to the best of their abilities. But at the same time, I can’t really see to what extent these online classes are benefitting children. However, it is at least making the children remember their books every day.”

Should schools be reopened?

Ricky Marshal Synnah: Cases of COVID is rising every day, especially here in East Khasi Hills. In my opinion, since there is no vaccine as of yet, so I don’t think we should send children to school yet.

Prashanta Dey: I don’t think it should be reopened unless cases of COVID-19 comes down. My children go to school by bus, they will interact with the driver and other students also. When children meet, they will start playing together and won’t follow safety protocols so chances of spreading disease are high.

B. Pyrtuh: I won’t be able to send my youngest daughter to school even if it reopens, but for my elder daughter I will send her.

Dr. Twinkle Marak: We do have to think about moving on, we have to think about living with the COVID situation for some time till some long time solution comes, we cannot hide away from life indefinitely but as far as sending back children to schools is concerned, I would be still be one of them who is willing to keep my children home for one year, even at the risk of losing a year of an academic year as opposed to sending them to school immediately.

Should school fees be reduced?

Ricky Marshal Synnah: I think school fees should be reduced because people who earn daily wages, and business has also gone down due to the pandemic.

Prashanta Dey: I think school fees should be reduced. The middle class doesn’t get any help from the government. At least school fees should be reduced.

B. Pyrtuh: I earn my living through street vending in Police Bazaar, but I had to stay home due to the lockdown for around 5 months, so I wasn’t able to pay the school fees. The school asked for fees, but I told them I cannot pay them now.

Working parents seem to be facing the brunt of this situation brought upon by the pandemic. After putting in long hours at work, they also have to take on the role of a teacher at home. However, these unprecedented circumstances have also given children the time to learn other life skills like cooking, managing finances, etc.

With cases of COVID-19 on the rise in the whole country as well as the state, most parents are reluctant to send their children back to schools, colleges and other educational institutions.

Even though they are not fully satisfied with the current online teaching scenario, most parents are opening up to this alternative. In a way, the pandemic is revolutionising the way education is imparted. How will this really impact the education system of the country? Only time will tell.