By Rachel Collis
We need to find a creative way, and quickly, to get our children back into face-to-face schooling. Failing this, we can look forward to the opening up of a wide chasm in the education of our youth which would echo and reverberate for years to come.
It is obvious that the children of more affluent parents or teacher parents are faring better than the ones whose parent cannot pay the electricity bill, much less provide a laptop or tablet for their child. Many of these parents are too busy wondering where the next meal is coming from to even consider taking time off from work, or sitting patiently to home school their children. In some households, there are more than two children who have to use the same equipment to do their lessons, a challenge which is proving to be an impossibility. We knew there might have been a second lockdown after the first, yet we seemed to have reacted even worse than the first time. Now we are nursing fears that our children will forever be one or two years behind, trying to catch up but forever lagging because of the trends followed in acquiring a modern education.
So where does that leave them? Doing menial jobs? Unable to qualify for a scholarship due to poor showing at exams which, no matter what, they still have to take? Not taking their rightful places in the job assembly line because they do not have sufficient institutional knowledge, and would have to spend their creative years being assistants to the older and more experienced workers who must stay on because the talent is not there to whom they could safely pass the torch?
There are horror stories from teachers who must teach online classes to students who just do not sign in, or if in, spend time looking at the walls of their homes. For others, this is just time away from school, and they do not feel they have to be serious about schoolwork because the implications of not showing the right amount of interest have not been outlined to them. There are parents who just either do not have the time to monitor these classes, or who just don’t know how to assist their children. And there are the ghastly stories of teachers giving assignments which never get corrected nor returned.
So how are we going to fix this problem? There are teachers who would willingly spend time giving face-to-face classes with the observance of the protocols. But these are few and far between. And some have to cope with a reluctance on the part of some parents to pay these teachers for these priceless efforts.
My advice to parents is that they make this sacrifice for their children during these rough times and try to acquire good learning for them. The gap that will be opened up will be unbridgeable if we do not act now. There are some subjects that do not lend themselves to an online environment and must be taught face-to-face. The little ones do not need online schooling. A good reading programme and educational material on the television would suffice at this point. The focus should be on the reading, since we are experiencing a less than satisfactory output in that department in too many of our schools.
Efforts must be made to acquire teachers who have the skills to teach these subjects. Not all can function under these trying times and still perform creditably.
Failing all this, we are going to reap a generation of deprived learners which would have serious implications for our country down the road. Covid will be resolved to a tolerable place in our health system, but how do you make up for the lost years, the failure to stimulate learning during the pandemic, the wide chasms in the knowledge base of our next generation, if we do not respond seriously? As indicated before, the children of the affluent will make it. They will get the scholarships and they will be the only ones equipped for nation building. But this will only come about if we do not get serious and look out for all our children. All of them.
Education is too precious for us to be skimping on what we provide for our future, which is our children.
Some of us stand ready to help in these trying times, but please do not offer us super bowl tickets or a hand of bananas for our skills. When a plumber comes to our home to work, he is meritoriously rewarded for the work he does.
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