One month into the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown and my eight-year-old daughter’s online classes started. At first it was just more extracurricular activities and less academics. Then the next month a full-fledged time-table was shared with us parents, there were live online classes. By this time there was a huge hue and cry that small children are spending too much time online and that it will affect their mental and physical well-being. So, the government took cognisance of this and directed schools not to hold online classes for children upto class 5, at least the governments of Madhya Pradesh and Karnataka did. So, now a new method was developed by the school. The teachers sent videos and PPTs daily for the children. At the end there are home assignments for the kids too.
As a parent I monitor my daughter’s online activities, then sit with her and explain the lessons for the day and get her homework done.This is the end of the task for the kid but not for me. Now, I have to take pictures of the homework and mail it to myself. Then download them on my computer, rename files and upload on MS Teams, the medium through which the classes are held. Let me tell you, this is a daily chore I have been doing for the last two months and don’t know till when it will continue. It is taking a toll on both my daughter and me, more mentally than physically, and I am sure even on the teachers too.
Affecting the kids and parents
Well, watch out for symptoms like dry eyes, headaches and manifestation of conditions such as depression, anxiety, insomnia, other than them becoming obese, these maybe hints that online classes, which means sitting in front of a computer or looking at a tab or mobile phone for long durations is beginning to affect them.
Also, if they are showing changes in their behaviour like fear for bedtime, have suddenly become stubborn, have started throwing tantrums, are making careless mistakes, are not interested in household tasks, trying to avoid routines than before, and showing lesser interest in indoor games or playing with peers means all is not well with them.
As for parents, let me give you my example. I am stressed from Monday morning onwards till Saturday afternoon. I am snappy and have no patience left. I am juggling between the kid’s classes and homework, housework and my online work. At the end of the day I am exhausted and waiting desperately for this routine to end.
No, not everything is negative with regard to online classes. Kids are loving the fact that there are no reprimands from teachers, they don’t have to get up early in the morning to go to school, and there is no fixed time for submissions of assignments. For some kids like my daughter the opportunity to stay at home with family and pets is an added bonus. And exasperatingly naughty children like mine are free to do anything else even while classes are on,and say is the best part of these classes for them. As a result I have to keep a tab on her activities at all times.
It’s tough for the teachers too
We should not forget that for teachers also this is a new way to teach. They too had to learn a new technology, maybe had to upgrade their computers, buy new software to design these classes for their students. And most important of all this in between taking care of their own kids and household chores. I salute them because I find them always smiling, patient while dealing with small kids.
The worrisome factor
What worries me though is the fact that in our country how many homes have multiple computers or devices. With parents also working from home, virtually everyone needs a device. How many can afford to buy new ones.
Also, more than half of our population lives in rural areas, how many have Internet connectivity and the speed to run these software. Every now and then we read of parents in villages selling off their cattle to buy devices for their children. We really have to think how viable online classes are in the long run.
Benefits of online classes
The government and schools are forced to take into account the fact that if they don’t resort to online classes kids will not be able to complete their syllabus for the current academic year on time. They might even loose a year. Are we prepared for this?
So, whether we like it or not online classes are here to stay. Why look at the negatives then, let’s look at the benefits.
Online classes bring with them flexibility. Children can study in the morning, afternoon, evening or night — whatever works best for them, instead of adhering to a school schedule.The kids can watch the videos and do their homework in their own time.They can study in the comfort of their homes, they can sit on their study tables or in their favourite corner of their house .
As for the parents, whether they like it or not they have to get involved in their kids academics. With no school and tuitions in the picture parents have to become teachers for their kids. This makes parents aware of their kids’ studies and syllabus. It’s a great bonding time as well. In my home my spouse teaches my daughter Math and Hindi while I teach her everything else even help her with extracurricular activities.
If you ask me as a parent I would advise the authorities to reduce the syllabus to 50% for students this year. Atleast for students’ upto class 8. Just keep the basics and necessary portions and not burden the kids with the full syllabus.
As I keep repeating, abnormal times need extraordinary steps to cope with the situation.
(The views expressed are the writer’s own)
Smita Singh is a freelance writer who has over 17 years of experience in the field of print media, publishing, and education. Having worked with newspapers like The Times of India (as freelancer), National Mail, Dainik Bhaskar and DB Post, she has also worked with Rupa & Co, a book publishing house and edited over 30 books in all genres.
She has worked with magazines like Discover India and websites called HolidayIQ and Hikezee (now Go Road Trip). She has also written for Swagat (former in-flight magazine of Air India), Gatirang (magazine of MarutiUdyog), India Perspectives (magazine for Ministry of External Affairs) and Haute Wheels (magazine of Honda).
After turning freelance writer she wrote on art and architecture for India Art n Design. She also worked for Princeton Review as a full-time Admissions Editor and then IDP Education Private Limited as an Application Support Consultant. Smita has her own website called bookaholicanonymous.com which supports her love for books and reading!
You can reach her at: [email protected]
(Collage with images from the net)