Coronavirus Pandemic

Coronavirus: Parents in UAE share their struggles in the new-normal school year

Nandini Sircar/Dubai
Filed on September 27, 2020 | Last updated on September 27, 2020 at 12.59 am
Coronavirus, Parents, UAE, share, struggles, new-normal, school year,
ON-SCREEN FOCUS: Zeba helps out her son Mustafa when he gets off-track while attending classes online. (Right) Grade 1 student Ahmed shows a thumbs-up gesture as he interacts with his teacher.

School heads agreed that while the virtual classes have been streamlined to a great extent, there are areas that require further intervention.

Nearly a month into the new-normal academic year, a number of UAE parents are yet to fully adapt to the changes and challenges that the pandemic has brought to their kids' education. And they couldn't help but ask: 'Is my child learning enough?'

Five-year-old Mustafa loves staring at the face of his mother, Zeba Khan, during his online classes. School days had been tough at home, Zeba said, and it wasn't just because of Internet and tech issues.

"The breakfast table has turned into a classroom. The teacher speaks in English and I explain things to my son in Hindi or Urdu, especially when he is not responding to his teacher's query and draws a blank. With me sitting next to him, I feel at times that he has started depending on me a lot, which is not the case when a child physically goes to school," she said.

Another problem was children's short attention span, Zeba added. "Kids as young as Mustafa sometimes don't want to look at the camera during class. They feel bored and soon become fidgety. There are multiple activities happening around the house, so it can be distracting for children."

Another mother whose children are in middle school also believe that students are still facing adjustment issues. "They miss the face-to face interaction they had with their teachers and peers. So, for meaningful participation, senior class students need to be in charge of their own learning," said Iram Rizvi.

Rizvi said tech glitches could sometimes get in the way, too. "In one occasion, our building suddenly experienced a power cut. So my children who have opted for online learning missed two of their classes. They were clearly disappointed."

Distance learning is more of a "test" for parents, Zeba noted. "We have to rework our schedules, leaving all household and other important work at bay."

Sometimes, projects require recording the work on video and e-mailing it to the school, which kindergarteners are unable to do on their own, she added.

Guidance from parents

School heads agreed that while the virtual classes have been streamlined to a great extent, there are areas that require further intervention.

Arogya Reddy, principal of Ambassador School Sharjah, said: "Apart from concerns related to network connectivity or multiple users for one or two laptops, children are being deprived of social skills during the pandemic. There are things that one can only understand by seeing the body language of a teacher or peers. a remark or a joke or a pat on the back may be small but significant."

Without proper supervision, older students could find loopholes and skip lessons without their teachers noticing.

"Some students take advantage of the situation. We often hear children saying their cameras are not working due to technical reasons. If left unsupervised at home, schools may not always know what these students are doing during school time. They may be watching a video or even playing a game," Reddy said.

Pramod Mahajan, principal of Sharjah Indian School, affirmed that parents do need ti invest more time with their children.

"Time management from all stakeholders, including parents, becomes critical to achieve necessary learning outcomes. Learner autonomy is good, but students have to be responsible, otherwise parents need to intervene."

The pandemic situation has also compelled institutions to reinvent learning and come up with new initiatives to support not only the students, but their teachers and parents as well.

Sangita Chima, principal of Amity School Dubai, said: "We have learnt that our main focus area should be on the social and emotional well-being of students, teachers and parents. Each vertical requires our support and assistance during this time." 

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