Melbourne parents react to schools reopening
One of the biggest casualties of the coronavirus has been education. School children in Melbourne and across Victoria have been staying at home for nearly two months now.
For some, this has been a family bonding time. Sadly, not all families have had the leisure or pleasure of making good use of family time for various reasons such as parents working or the lack of, say, resources. Add to it, online learning and home schooling have had its pros and cons.
Now, the Victorian government has announced that school students will begin a phased return to classrooms before the end of May, following advice from Victoria’s Chief Health Officer that it is safe for the community to do so.
Since the beginning of Term 2, most children in Victoria have been learning remotely, limiting the number of people moving around the state every day to help slow the spread of coronavirus, an official media release said.
From Tuesday May 26, all Prep, Grade 1 and Grade 2 students, specialist school students, as well as VCE and VCAL students will return to on-site learning at government schools. The next fortnight, and a pupil free day at all schools on 25 May, will give staff, schools and families time to prepare for the change, the release further stated.
The government also adds that the strict health protocols that are already in place will be followed if a member of the school community tests positive for coronavirus. It is a news that has been received with mixed reactions from parents, some of whom are rather tired of home-schooling their children while juggling their own work, others who fear the kids might contract the virus, and yet some others who believe a return to normal schooling and socialisation is important.
Dr Pooja Sharma, a resident of Kew, belongs to the camp that believes children need to go to school. “Scientific research reveals that kids are protected against severe consequences of coronavirus infection. This will improve herd immunity. Kids pay more attention in a proper school environment and taking the burden off home schooling will help the working class become more productive,” says Sharma, who has two boys in Year 1 and Year 8.
“The best option is to pull the school holidays back by two weeks whereby term 3 can start in the first week of July. This will safeguard students by not being exposed to the virus for another six weeks in a row till July 1”
In the same vein, Bina Shah, Education and Migration Consultant, also a Kew resident, is of the opinion that as long as schools maintain good hygiene and practise social distancing policy, it is alright to send children to school. Shah, whose son is in crucial Year 10, says, “It’s very important to have face-to-face teaching. Perhaps not every day but three days a week in an alternating pattern is good and schools can have few children in attendance at a time. Socialising is also important for kids.”
She understands that few parents might still decide to keep their children at home. “However, at some stage we all will have to build immunity against the virus I suppose, but then again, children have less chances of contracting.”
Michelle, a resident of Glen Waverly, who has three children in Prep, Year 5 and Year 7, is happy with the government announcement as she believes kids do need to go back to school soon but in stages. Like others, she fears everyone going at the same time will not be helpful as “there possibly could be few carriers”.
Parents like Michelle have spent the past few weeks coming to terms with the pressures of homeschooling. “It is not difficult but there is just too much work. Moreover, the expectation of work output was not realistic. So, kids ended up fatigued before the end of the week. True for parents too.”
However, others such as Surkeinya, a resident of Melton, who has a child in Year 3, says a few more weeks of learning from home is safer than putting your child in hospital. “I am not sending my child to school. Children are innocent, how can they strictly observe social distancing among themselves? We are not sure who is carrying the virus. Yes, some people are very responsible and others are not. We can’t, at this point, risk lives.”
The young mother whose partner also works from home, avers that her son is doing well under home schooling, but is worried about the loneliness aspect and missing peer group activities. At the same time, health is of paramount importance she believes and is adamant about sending her son to school only when “things settle down properly, when all is clear”.
Likewise, Anil Joseph, a resident of Caroline Springs, whose daughter studies in Year 7, feels the government can wait till the start of term three to induct kids back in school. “In fact, the best option is to pull the school holidays back by two weeks whereby term 3 can start in the first week of July. This will safeguard students by not being exposed to the virus for another six weeks in a row till July 1. This could also work as most parents would be staying home, in my opinion till the first week of July.”
However, says Joseph, “If the school allows to keep my daughter at home then I would. If not, I will send her, though grudgingly.”
While schools reopening is a sign of recovery, parents are divided in their opinion. Like any issue, it appears hard to arrive at a general consensus.