Annette Quinn, Head of Operations, Impact (…oh and home-schooling x 2 children!)
Many parents in the developed world have jumped due to necessity and are getting to grips via: virtual classrooms; onscreen learning; cyber teams; real-time electronic lessons and wired project groups. Parents have become quasi-support-teacher-technicians: motivating their children; sorting out hardware and connectivity issues; correcting and printing worksheets and books; attaching and uploading their children’s toil, as well as responding to Q&A on every subject. Then after the school day, extra curricula comes into its own, when parents become tutors, cooking instructors, home-science experiment leads, coaches for PE and art/craft classes, stimulated by virtual experts and organisations offering guidance and support on any topic of a child’s interest.
Should a parent run out of ideas, well they have a mind-field of educational and edutainment activities packaged and supplied by: the likes of the BBC (a whole can of worms) and a plethora of educational bodies (private and charitable), not to mention an ocean full of the most amazing websites and free and paid-for apps. The quantity is gargantuan. In fact, one might suggest, that some parents in the developed world, are at risk of drowning in this vast sea of education content – their new normal.
To the extreme opposite, on this ocean of content spectrum are those without technology, or connectivity or books or content, or paper or pencils. In the developing world, COVID-19 has meant an expediential increase of inequality: children without any access to their education – their new normal!
Reduced access to learning is also due to an increased lack of basic livelihood prerequisites such as: good health and enough food and water. School closures has not only amplified the numbers of children missing their education, but it often means children lose a daily meal, and sometimes a child’s only substantial meal, of the day. School closure has decreased children’s safety making them more vulnerable and at greater risk to exploitation and abuse.
When our project schools closed their doors, like many others we had to rethink our operations. We delivered: education packs with worksheets and booklets, hygiene kits, online and offline tutorials and training, as well as free access to apps for new groups we identified and could more easily reach during the close down. But like many other aid organisations, we were stuck between trying to balance our support while maintaining social distance measures and adhere to strict government lockdown regulations, which varied from country to country. Our new normal involved radical changes and has by no means been a perfect or adequate solution because what it emphasises is that schools are a critical community hub and often a child’s lifeline, in developing world geographies.
We are now a couple of months on, and we are still seeking solutions, making adjustments but also planning the next phase of this unprecedented time. As lockdowns begins to ease, our plans are to help schools, help children make up for lost time, the minute the school gates reopen.