The challenges posed by the closure of schools and a call for solidarity
Schools have closed. These intellectual and educational spaces filled with lives, dreams and hopes suddenly turn into an empty desert.
No more traffic at the door of these establishments in the early morning. No more queuing students and whispers of colorful stories. No more ringing bells recalling discipline and announcing the start of a day full of new subjects and unforgettable memories. No more canteen and sharing of sandwiches. No more team projects and meetings with friends. No more theatre, music or extracurricular activities. No more spontaneous jokes exploding into innocent laughter. No more school life, no more atmosphere, but an enormous silence. Silence of a desert ! Schools today remind us of Sleeping Beauty’s castle. They simply closed their doors. Students, parents and teachers are locked down at home. Each of these three actors in school life faces a unique situation: parents turn into private teachers, teachers interact with screens that replace school benches and children are completely disconnected from their daily routine. The three of them are victims of new changes caused by this covod-19 virus which suddenly turns their lives upside down and threatens them with the unknown. Panic is taking over.
Parents ask themselves a thousand and one questions: will they be able to provide education for their children? How should they manage the many demands on their time? It goes without saying that the lack of education experience is the biggest problem. Not all parents can support their children in their school work. This difficulty is undoubtedly relative and variable. However, it is more acute for parents who do not have mastery over the language in which their children learn.
As for teachers, they find it difficult to accept and adapt to these new modes of technology which operate completely differently from traditional teaching. It is true that educational organisations have tried to find the best solutions to continue providing distance education, but the multiplicity of choices of platforms and learning tools as well as the lack of a unanimous and structured plan have engendered a variety of approaches. The pace of preparations was therefore unfortunately not the same in all schools: faster in some, but very slow in others. The teachers opted for different choices of tools: Google Classroom, Zoom, Skype, pronote, emails, etc. Result: children and parents find themselves inundated by a multitude of sources which is disorientating. The situation is more delicate in private schools where tuition fees are high. Unsatisfied and overwhelmed parents have demanded fee reductions, the establishments in return refused to comply with this request as it threatens their continuity.
As for children, they are the most vulnerable in this whole sanitary crisis . Completely isolated from their peer group and dramatically expelled from their daily routine, they are exposed to integral changes in their lifestyle: no socialization or leisure activities, and having to work with parents with different methods. This disturbance will undoubtedly leave its small scars in their memory.
Let’s add to the basket the major emotion that discreetly tortures them: fear. The fear of this ravaging virus, but also the fear of infecting their parent or grandparent!
Confinement is no doubt necessary. Human health deserves all the sacrifices of the world. But how long will they resist? The situation is seriously unpredictable, and the moral, mental and intellectual repercussions cannot be overlooked. How do we deal with all of these challenges in our schools while waiting to go back to our ordinary way of life?
Schools must do their best to reassure parents and students. The unification of the working platform within the same school structure is an essential measure to lighten the parents’ task and allow them to continue the program in a simple and clarified manner. On the other hand, parents must moderate their requirements and give teachers time to assimilate and master the new work tools. It is true that in most companies, the managerial bodies have been able to more easily adopt teleworking, however the situation is not the same in educational forums whose object is an intellectual product which directly affects the intelligence of our future “citizens of the world ”. Patience is therefore essential at this level.
In this new world ,weakened by the Coronavirus, it is solidarity that wins the fight. So let’s stop the destructive accusations that disturb our positions. Instead, opt for measured opinions and reasonable expectations. Let us remain united and together form a positive bridge in order to overcome this unprecedented life challenging issue successfully.
President of the LFIA Board of Directors.