Schooling in the times of a Global Pandemic

Staying online majorly meant two things to me – online shopping and social media. But thanks to Covid-19, being online has now become ‘a way of life’. As social distancing becomes the mantra for survival, this seems to be the reality for quite a long time now. So, whatever I want to do I got to go online, be it shopping, reading newspapers, ordering food, connecting with family/ friends, learning sports/ dance/ music, conducting business, consulting doctors online and rest assured that the list is unending. In a way, I’d say thank God! I mean what if this was’nt possible? Especially in a city like Mumbai where the cases are sky rocketing and staying indoors is the only way to stay safe. Point noted and agreed to. But then comes the much debated question…schooling online too?!

Schooling is not just academics – its about learning life. We send our kids out there into the world without us (but with the guidance of teachers) to help them understand the most basic things about life and to equip them to deal with situations and people in a better way. It ain’t just about mastering the sciences, the arts or the languages. Schools have an organic and conducive environment for our children so that they learn, grow, make new friends, have new experiences and flourish. Now, how will all of this be possible in an online set up?

This question has baffled and troubled me enough the last three months. The pandemic has not just costed us lives and livelihoods but loss of precious time which will never come back. Time, especially from the lives of our children and thats more disconcerting than anything else. The time  they could use to learn, understand, explore, experiment, play and grow. How can they do all of this online?! 

So when virtual school started in April I was so against it. I cribbed a lot and had complete contempt for it. Afterall, even the thought of exposing my kids to so much screentime seemed horrendous. Plus I have two children so I had to individually spend time on both of them to acclimitiaze them to this new reality where learning was not going to happen the way they knew it. Obviously, they found it pretty difficult. They were disinterested and demotivated to say the least. 

I  tried my best to take them offline, to do things ourselves. Is it easy? No, not at all. With the lockdown still in force and no help whatsoever in running the entire house, things did not quite pan out the way I wished them to. My daughters (aged 7.5 and 3.5 years), started falling apart bit by bit. How much ever me and my husband tried life still seemed fairly incomplete. That is when I decided to pause and rethink. 

Yes, the change is hard on all fronts. We would definitely not like our kids to have so much screen time and all of that. But in these really extreme times how much sense does it make to resist change to such a degree? Should’nt we try adapting to it in the best possible way? This is no doubt the new reality and is going to be this way for a while. How much longer can we afford to have the everday normalcy of our children’s lives be disrupted? How good is it for their physical, emotional and mental well-being? After a lot of thought and dialouge with fellow parents, I feel we should not resist the change dramatically. Look at the new reality from a positive and constructive perspective and adapt to it.

In the meantime, the school also bettered itself. They came back with more engaging content and interactive sessions. Schools have been continously trying their best to create a school-like environment for children with events, activities and co-curriculars. These positive enhancements have helped the children also better connect with online schooling. My older one, who initially told me “I dont like it maa, its not like school’, now has settled down fairly well and doesnt want to miss a class. Guess its a matter of time as well. 

My younger daughter, who is in Jr Kindergarten, still finds it a little difficult to study in an online set up but guess thats expected of her age. Though I must say she has accepted the fact very well that as long as corona virus exists outside we have to be home and school will be through a device. So they are good days and bad days. What’s wonderful though is that she already loves her teachers and considers their word to be the gospel truth! She wont blink an eye before saying, “…but Vidula Mam told me to do like this.” 

With online school hours and syllabus reduced now, content being more engaging and interactive and most importantly seeing how fond my girls are of school, their teachers and classmates…I feel virtual schooling ain’t that bad afterall. In these times of uncertainity and a kind of hopelessless, the school continues to do its job of being that turf outside home, guiding the kids to always be on a learning curve and guiding them into a world of bright hopes and aspirations. 

PS – I first published this in Linkedin on 17th of July 2020 and it was trending for a while under the hashtag #onlineschool 🙂

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