Swati Popat - Harsha Ramaiya

ECA recommendations for COVID 19 lock down

April 4, 2020

Dr. Swati Popat Vats founder-president of the Early Childhood Association (ECA) and president of the Podar Education Network gives recommendations for COVID 19 lockdown in a Facebook live interview with Harsha Ramaiya, President at TIE- Team Of Ignited Educators- Bhavnagar Teachers and National Core Committee Member at Early Childhood Association India. Ramaiya and and Vats interview cleared many doubts that were revolving around on various social platforms.

Ramaiya: How are you taking this lock down period?

Vats: I am investing my time in looking after my house as well as I am reaching out to the people who are struggling for the basic essentials for survival during these crucial hours. I believe in human connection that is what really needed to makes us happy and healthy.

Ramaiya: How are the people adjusting to the lock down?

Vats: In the initial stage the lock down was a matter of joke for the people but slowly and gradually people have started sharing about their activities and games that they are doing at home or with schools. Parents are worried that what if the corona virus continues and how will the schools operate.

I recommend that we should not worry about it right now, instead we should concentrate on how enriching we can make the rest of the days in this lockdown period. ECA helps schools to understand that there is an option of online
learning. ECA trains teachers of an NGO called Life trust, this NGO runs government Balwadis in Mumbai, we have helped them run online learning through whatsapp, so this means that online learning is not only an option for
private schools but can be sensibly done for government schools too.

I would like to throw light on a very important aspect that religion, caste or creed has nothing to do with lock down, as children are children and we should give our best to them during this critical situation.

Ramaiya: What about the effect on the syllabus that is missed out and how can the schools bridge the gap?

Vats: I suggest not to worry about the missed out syllabus but to concentrate more on developing life skills in children. If children miss out on a few letters of numbers, that will not impact the future of children. But what will
impact is if the children are stressed and traumatized during this period. So lets understand what is more important.

I request the educators to teach children with a mindset of nurturing the social and emotional development of the children and not just with the mindset to finish the curriculum.

Children at this point of time are scared they might not show, but if the teacher on screen demands many things to do at a time it is not advisable.

I urge all the educators and parents not to rush all together when the lock down is off.

Instead wait for the Government Orders, as schools might be the last to open.

I also advice all the educators that there is a lot more to do online and connect with children.

Ramaiya: How to handle the whats app groups? Keeping them open for members and not to admin posts only.

Vats: It is quite saddening to see even educators posting and forwarding messages without a second thought. I request you to refer to my latest video “Let the finger Linger” an eye opener, where I have explained how we should be sensible and think before posting anything and know its authenticity before doing so. I advise the admins to be more alert and point out the members in that case. But closing down groups and making them admin only is also not good, because this is not the time to ostracize people, it is the time to be together and learn to correct people who are wrong.

Ramaiya: Parents are struggling to explain the children about this lock down. It is very difficult to keep children at home. Kindly guide.

Vats: Our children need our support all the more now. We might be busy with our social media activities, but kids do not have that outlet, they don’t have social media to remain occupied on it. Some important guidelines from my side are, talking to children more and more will help. E.g. Explaining them that when children have flu or cold they are asked to stay at home, similarly at present many people are having flu and cold outside which is Corona virus. It’s very important to explain them about the scenario outside.

I request you to refrain from words and negative sentences like killing the time or keeping children busy, children are not things and we should not address it in this manner. Children should be kept engaged in games, individual games or group games or home chores.

If you are going to constantly try to keep them ‘busy’ with learning activities, definitely they will be bored and restless. Adults play an important role and have a huge responsibility to see that children are not caught in an emotional web of stress, fear and boredom. Parents have the responsibility to keep children safe mentally as well as physically.

We should not look to keep children busy but look to keep them engaaged

Ramaiya: How can we design a fruitful Home Based Learning Program?

Vats: Keeping the 5 areas of development in mind best home learning programme can be planned.
• Language
• Physical
• Social
• Emotional
• Cognitive

Planning should have a purpose and the activity should be age appropriate and combination of all the 5 skills. Stories can enhance language skill, games, family cooking can build social skills, and dance and yoga are best practices for physical development. Dance helps children to release their energy. Above all this, children should learn balance between screen and non-screen time.

Ramaiya: How can home chores make children busy?

Vats: When children indulge themselves in household activities they have sense of joy in them, they feel empowered and needed. Children can be given house chores age wise. For example folding the laundry, wiping the utensils etc. teaches them many concepts like size, colors and so on. Dusting is also one of the process that teaches that how cleanliness is one of the important things in our life. These kind of activities will keep them engaged and would also give them a sense of achievement and sense of family.

Ramaiya: Teachers miss their students and like wise students are missing their teachers. How do they connect with each other?

Vats: For teachers I advise to connect through whats app videos and if possible live Facebook sessions. Teachers can go live where children can see them and parents can help them comment on their sessions. This will help them understand that screen time is not just about playing games but also be about human connections.

Ramaiya: After 21 days of the lockdown period what positive things Dr. Vats is expecting.

Vats: Not to start going out as soon as lockdown is over. Don’t open the schools immediately, wait for the government orders. Parents and schools will have a better sense of relationship, where each will understand that child’s progress goes hand in hand. People will respect positive online learning and will understand that teaching children life skills is also a part of academics.

Message for Parents

If a child loses temper and throws tantrum, parents should be steady and keep calm as stress weakens the immune system. Children and senior citizens have a close bonding amongst them and this is the best time to keep them involved and to take care of them.

Message for teachers

Children love you. You need not get nervous teaching online or making videos, if at all you make mistakes while speaking, acknowledge them and apologize for your mistakes. Through this children will also learn that it’s ok to make mistakes and to realize them. Connect with your children and ensure that you just don’t focus on academics but also all round development. Also please don’t make them sit like a school schedule- 3 hours together!

Remember they are at home and they will want to move around etc., so you give the timetable without specific timings to the parents and let the parents decide, when they want to do the activities. Also ensure that when children rejoin, you are revising all that they have done at home.

Message for school owners

The school owners should wait for the government orders before taking any decisions, like reopening. If any parents ask for refund or discount explain them that government has clearly said that companies have to pay salary.

But in any case if a parent has lost their jobs under this situation, the schools can consider the issue. The parents can provide necessary evidences to the school for the consideration for any concession or consideration in the fees.

A humble appeal to all schools not to use this time as false marketing by saying that all fees waived off. Do it if you are really not going to cut corners, or salaries. Don’t commit to parents just to get admissions.

Parents and the schools should show resilience and come out with positive attitudes so that our children can look upon us and learn to deal with any situation that may occur in future.

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