By Seneca Moraleda-Puguan
A few weeks ago, my mother sent me a message asking me to look for a laptop for her 11-year-old grandson who will be going to school soon, not face-to-face but online. She asked me to find one that is equipped not only for research but also for Zoom meetings. My brother lost his job in the middle of the pandemic and couldn’t afford to buy his son a laptop so the grandmother went to the rescue. My nephew is blessed to have a grandmother who is able to provide him with a needed laptop, but how about those families already struggling to have food on their tables, let alone buy a laptop that is very expensive?
Everywhere, despite many having lost jobs and limited resources, parents are being forced to buy laptops and mobile phones so their children can continue learning. There has been a move from learning in classrooms to learning virtually or remotely in order to help reduce the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and also to protect students from catching the virus.
I have also seen groups raising funds to help families who can’t afford obtaining laptops, mobile phones or even have a decent Wi-Fi connection for their children.
The field of education is one of the major sectors of society impacted by the global pandemic. According to the United Nations, the COVID-19 pandemic has created the largest disruption of education systems in history, affecting nearly 1.6 billion learners in more than 190 countries and all continents. Closures of schools and other learning spaces have impacted 94% of the world’s student population, up to 99% in low and lower-middle income countries.
In all parts of the world, there are debates going on whether to let children continue going to school or let them learn from home. In the middle of a pandemic, both have its pros and cons. It’s a dilemma every parent is facing. But what matters now is for every student and their families to be protected from the virus.
As for our family, we have decided to homeschool our children. My husband and I will be our children’s teachers. Our eldest daughter Callie is only 4 years old so we just let her play most of the time. I have a 17-month-old boy who is very clingy and needy so we asked my sister-in-law who is in the Philippines to help us teach our daughter basic Math, Science and Filipino online for 30 minutes everyday. As much as Callie enjoys talking to her aunt and learning from her, we have noticed that her attention span is very short and she couldn’t focus for a long time. She likes talking and playing with her aunt but she prefers learning from her mommy and daddy whom she sees face-to-face.
Every child is different. There are those who can focus for a long time while looking at a screen but there are those who thrive when they have physical interaction with someone. But one thing I know for sure, nothing beats learning face-to-face with someone, whether a teacher, a parent or a classmate. But what do we do? With the school closures, we just have to make a way for children to continue learning.
The COVID-19 pandemic has revealed the many problems that the education sector is facing–unequal access to technology and unequal access to educational resources. The most affected are the children from rural areas and those coming from disadvantaged families. It has also brought strain to parents especially those who have to continue working. It also has affected the dynamics of family life. It has caused depression and anxiety among students who need social interaction with peers.
As a homeschooling parent, I may not be fully affected by school closures and virtual learning, but my heart goes out to those parents who had to send their kids to school, to those who have opted for traditional schooling but are not able to do so at this time because of the pandemic. My heart aches for the many parents right now thinking anxiously where to get the resources needed for their children to continue learning. I am praying really hard for government leaders around the world as they make decisions to mitigate this crisis and be able to present the best options to their weary subordinates and heartbroken families under their care.
When will this pandemic end? This is the question every one of us is asking right now. No one knows the answer but as we continue to face all the challenges this pandemic has caused our lives, I trust that the resilience of our spirit and the hope burning in our hearts will carry us through. Just as every hardship we have faced as a race, this is just a season and seasons change. I am looking forward to the day that our children will be able to play freely outside again, breathe fresh air with no masks covering their mouths, laugh and learn with their friends and classmates and enjoy the gift of life.
By Seneca Moraleda-Puguan