BY R.D. Miller
The humanity of education:
The COVID-19 pandemic has had serious implications beyond the spread of the illness itself and efforts to quarantine or social distancing. Many have lost their jobs, companies have closed or sales have gone down. With over a million people die and another 70 million infected and rising, there are several untold and unseen consequences.
Unfortunately, many lower-income families in impoverished communities in poor and developing countries do not have access to the global space of learning to rebound on par with the rest of the rich counties, states, school districts. Several classrooms already needed an upgrade before the pandemic.
Many are already crowded, low performance, old run-down buildings deemed unsafe for both children and teachers; including a high student-teacher ratio. In some of these school systems, students had to attend schools in morning and afternoon shifts.
Though it is not an effortless task, the pandemic has exposed how fragile economies were, and the lack of focus on the educational system before the pandemic.
Experts noted these students will miss out on face-to-face socialization process critical to the child’s development, as until this global health pandemic, run its course.
Reports have shown several schools who conducted classes following the guidelines of social distancing and mask, later had to close from new infections. In addition, these schools have the resources, from proper ventilation, adequate classroom size.
While discussions between communities about what is the best course of action to mitigate the effects of science, politics, vaccination and resources regarding fair distribution. The reality for many impoverished nations this remains a complex issue, and where some may not or have a classroom to return because of the lack the critical resources.
Besides that, many will refuse the vaccine for cultural, religious reasons and a history of distrust in fear of being used for its development. However, hidden between the clinical trials, vaccination, hesitations, death toll, and infections that have been increasing; hunger, poverty, and starvation is killing millions, and this crisis seems to have taken a back seat or being overshadowed by many communities
What this pandemic has taught us is that the educational system is about teaching all regardless of race, sex, creed, culture, or socioeconomic status, and to build a nation and humanity, that will create a change in bringing our society to a perfect union.
Beyond the vaccine, science, and politics.
This forecast looks worse for impoverished nations and though it may not relate to a teacher’s engagement in this new normal distance learning, hybrid, but behind a camera, computer screen tucked away on a kitchen counter, at a cafe, or a corner office, and beyond the articles, opinions, COVID-19 occupy two different worlds.
While there have been political debates and promises about the COVID-19 stimulus package, or money distributed as reported in certain areas that lasted a trip to a local grocery store, and where elections have been won or lost because of pandemic management.
Unfortunately, many politicians are adept at winning elections, and then they learn the difference between campaigning and governing. Government is about accomplishing things, and usually a lot harder than being a politician. Some have limited skills, and we give them more tasks than they can do.
We have seen several political leaders issued tablets in many of these poor and developing regions, and it is a step in the promising direction, but that is where it stops. There is no access to the internet or resources to pay for access.
Technology experts noted though they may provide access regarding learning from a remote location, it lacks a keyboard, mouse, low processor, and limited research capabilities to work on projects. There are many young students out of the classroom and on to the streets to find their way.
Poverty is like a dial-up speed to upload and download life’s journey, and it has held many students back. It is a fact that COVID-19 has already shown signs that it is affecting school achievement, as experts have noticed. Reports have shown students since COVID-19 failing at an alarming rate. A recent test assessment showed lower scores for math, reading, and science.
The economic reality that cannot be masked
Before COVID-19, many poor and developing countries were struggling and risking high tides across the treacherous ocean as refugees to traveling to countries for an economic anchorage in an empty classroom anywhere. These systemic disparities today need a new fiber-optic connection to link hunger, education, and the pandemic into a single package on a long-term social contract like what they offer with your local cable company, broadband internet, television, and telephone.
The middle class has equally been deeply affected, and the dreadful long-term reality of anxiety, fear, and uncertainty is appalling, as they expected poverty to increase, according to the World Bank. The report shows that between 70 and 80 million people will fall into more profound poverty. There were significant pre-pandemic disparities in many areas, like education, employment, and access to good, affordable health care.
On-campus or not?
In contrast to rich school districts that have adopted an excellent strategy with resources, new technology platforms, improved speed, computers, and uninterrupted access, virtual, in-classroom, or hybrid.
These wealthy districts’ parents often are more engaged, have the flexibility, and connection that can influence the next learning platforms that suit their schedules. And though there are concerns about students and teacher safety, as evidenced by the demonstration lines with the teachers and their union, that normally settles with the school’s budget.
On the other side of the city, even with access, this pandemic has devastated many families; especially minorities, people of color who have lost many families because of this disease. The healthcare disparities have caused more deaths in these communities, and whether online or in class, it will not fill the emotional sadness and gaps from any new classroom format.
Who will be there to comfort a student who may have to cope with a deceased parent or another family member to the disease? The fact is, COVID-19 already created a wider gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Unquestionably, students missed their senior proms, hanging out with friends, homecoming, and sports, as experts noted, critical to the student’s social and emotional needs. However, this pandemic will not be measured on these things alone, or political polls, but on the gaps that it will leave in our society.
Besides, the further setbacks in their educational, social, and economic development; a good deal of may not even be vaccinated based on location, and access again will remain a barrier. The only ones who may come out as the winner are well-connected politicians where questions remain about the accounting of COVID-19 donated funds as reports have shown.
In addition, the investors as shares of pharmaceutical companies skyrocketed, but one still must give credit to the scientist who has been working and got society to this point.
Today’s multiple caps teachers: counselor, technical support, financial resource, attendance advocate
Studies have shown that teachers have a lifelong effect on schoolchildren that help them to believe in themselves, but parents will remain the most influential individuals in a child’s education and development.
COVID-19 has tossed many teachers into this unknown glass room, where everyone watching, hoping to get to know these kids through their gadgets that are often foggy while keeping 20-35 students alert.
The online setting does not provide an ideal platform to recognize all students, unique strengths, weaknesses, and motivation levels critical to keeping them all engaged virtually. However, it is a balance given the risk for new infections as no one knows how it is going to turn out from the vaccine to new variants.
We can argue that these students do not have the responsibility to go to work, the only commitment is to wake up, log in and take part, but I can see how many students’ grades may suffer even if a student had a high grade point average, before the Pandemic.
The personal check-in disguised for a few days
I monitored a few classes over the past three months, and I realized how tough teachers’ roles are in this new normal. Undoubtedly, a bonus for the ones who are mothers with instant access to their children from exposure to COVID-19. Time again you get that, “I’ll be right back,” wearing two hats, but I understand.
Even working in an environment, protecting the public and with the latest technology gadgets, my platform has its ugly days. However, as the week passed, it became more painless, and occasionally someone pops into this visual space, and maybe a school counselor and perhaps from parental feedback.
The students’ opinions that may be formed for a lifetime, may not have any outside discussion from one’s political beliefs, socio-economic status, culture, race, national origin, and how few view other groups, and a misguided history from some of these selective lectures, where it appears key decades in our/their history pains kipped to a much rosier picture in that period.
Some teachers are extremely helpful and understanding, while others, once they complete the slide, please check the folder to reply. What about those who may not have access to a closed online slide from that day’s class to refresh because their connection is away from the comfort of their home at a McDonald’s?
The question that I kept coming back to, if these sponge brains do not have an outlet at this age in the future to talk about any disagreement, questionable section of these Power Points is critical to their development at lunch, on the playing field, in the hallway walking to a locker. Let’s hope COVID-19 does not set us farther apart when we are all vaccinated and can return to normal.
Where is mum?
Missing in the debate:
Slow or No Wi-Fi
These parents deserve more support and resources like community groups. Even to help with an assignment. It’s critical to recognize and respect that every family and child has unique needs. Many parents have become substitute night teachers of the abundance of assignments and emails. If they cannot explain the material being taught, how will they help their child with homework?
The experts also pointed out that parents take note: Kids, teens, college student mental health problems on the rise.
More withdrawn than usual
Eating or sleeping too much or too little;
Getting irritable mood most days
Lack of interest in activities they typically enjoy.
Logging out for the day with concerns, but remain optimistic
Parents must be conscientious of several pop-up learning platforms being sold as an alternative by offering free computers and dedicated support. They must investigate like any sequence-based surveillance, laboratory studies, and epidemiological findings to make sure it does not leave them with an enormous financial burden and it does not prepare the child for the future.
Also, the increase in fishing to lure students from the virtual classroom to inappropriate websites and the best internet security alone cannot monitor these sites.
As society re-balances, I hope this pandemic creates a do-over where everyone can receive a legitimate shot to overcome these systematic gaps. Times are rough now, but if we prepare with a new balanced approach, I remain hopeful because education belongs to humanity and not a country.