Quarantined but I am not alone

Good Bye! I waved blissfully to my school friends with a twinkle in my eyes as I deboarded the bus. Humming away to the notes of ‘let it go…’, I skittled my way to the doorbell, tapping away at everything in sheer glee! Yippee, no exams, holidays begin. 

Ms. Monika, my most favorite teacher, sounded rather serious as she announced school closure today due to some Virus. Despite that grim look on her face, we couldn’t hide our happiness, “God bless the Virus. It gave us the holidays. No more exams! I am going to play, eat, sleep, watch movies and have tons of fun.”

These adults, aliens as they are, like to stay anxious. They have been calling it ‘dangerous’ ‘deadly’ and such other things… We learnt some new words, ‘pandemic’, ‘epidemic’, ‘contagious’ and many more, all thanks to this ‘Corona Virus’. My mother should be happy. Doesn’t she keep fretting about my vocabulary? It appears, they are calling it something else these days, ‘COVID-19.’ Have they started putting numbers on diseases, like they give us roll numbers?

Mumma has been anxious. Oh! well, that’s mostly her usual self during exam days, isn’t it? This time around she’s curiously paranoid about washing hands. Those sanitizers have suddenly appeared in every nook and corner of my entire world, in school, in the park and at home. The ‘vanar-sena look’ is the latest fashion statement, with everyone adorning curious masks over their nose and mouth, anxious adult eyes peering above them.

Anyway, I will play and play with my friends. I love the park below our apartment and the bicycles racing, the hide and seek and there’s scrabble and checkers and doll-house play and ah! so much more…

On no, mumma is not allowing me to go outside! She won’t even let me play at Arradhya’s house. It’s just next door! This is frustrating. My mother’s anxiety seems to be ongoing. Somebody tell her, EXAMS are OVER! She still says I should sit at home and read. Well, I do like to read, but then how much can I read? I already read all the new books I got. I have now learnt some more new words, ‘quarantine’, ‘social-distancing,’ and ‘lockdown’.

Can’t I play with mumma then? But she is very busy and so is papa. Radha didi seems to have got some holidays too. So now, everyone is busy. They are not going to office, but they are very busy on their laptops all day! They call it, ‘working-from-home.’ Radha didi seems to spend barely an hour finishing all her work. I see her everyday fussing about the house. I miss her cheerful daily presence. Mom and papa are busy with cooking and cleaning too. I can’t help but notice, they are certainly way less efficient, as compared to Radha didi! They are missing her too. I can tell.

I want to play. We tried playing some scrabble, papa and I. Mumma slept before we could begin as three playmates. She is always tired these days, what with so much ‘busy-ness’ (shouldn’t that be a word! I will ask Ms. Monika, but when? I am already missing my teachers). Just two turns and papa got a call. SSHHUSSHH he gestured, “Office”. Oh no, and that means he will be busy again… there goes my game of scrabble amidst everyone’s ‘busy-ness’. I miss my friends. I so want to be in school with my friends. Oh! the dance class, the music lesson and the drama workshops. I miss it all. Why did they shut schools? 

I can play alone. I can play video games and watch TV. Even mumma is not stopping me now. I know she does not like it, but does she even know? She seems oblivious. Never mind, I have been with the phone since morning. Apparently, they are no longer worried about my screen-time! But I am bored to death with this. Let’s go round and round in circles in the house. That I can do. Ooops, ‘Stop it’, says papa. He is trying to work and I am not letting him concentrate. What should I do then? No one cares. 

Oh, it’s already dark. I have been with videos all day. Why are my eyes hurting? I have a headache. I don’t like these holidays. I am sad. Is mom calling me? Forget it. No one has time for me. Why should I listen? Let me just stay in bed. I can keep sleeping. No, I can’t! It was a horrible dream I saw. Everyone is dead. Everyone is hungry. I am all alone. I don’t want to sleep. I don’t want to do anything… Is the world coming to an end? Isn’t that what they keep discussing? What should I do? I am scared…

Yes, the world is changing indeed. We are caught amidst one of the worst global emergencies of our time. This is a war against an invisible enemy. The microscopic enemy has brought everything to a standstill and made the human race reflect and rethink. While we engage in news and grapple with the pandemic, we often forget that our children are listening to all the panic-stricken conversations. We are busy with working-from-home and the additional domestic chores have been added to our usual engagements. We had already been mercilessly infected with the Social Media virus. It kills precious time cells and eats into our thinking brain-cells creating amygdala hijacks with Whatsapp rumour-news tools and trolls. We keep combating it, but it’s helplessly addictive.

Our children are listening, observing, wondering…They are alone at home away from friends and social engagement with their age-group. They are alone, away from work-routines and engaging tasks. Social distancing has made it necessary, but the fact remains, humans are social animals. We need social human interaction. It is an integral aspect of our very survival. We need routines and organization to continue a healthy sanity of our mind. We need all of this to stay normal, to stay calm, to stay de-stressed. Our children need schools more than ever and thus, learning cannot be quarantined, even as school staff and buildings are.

Technology has thankfully made it possible for this generation of teachers and young learners to engage with positive learning amidst the pandemic. It’s indeed amazing to see how teachers have adapted and reinvented their teaching styles to virtual teaching platforms. Yes, necessity is the mother of invention and what we are witnessing today is not just invention, but compassionate engagement with real learning blended into the present environment.

Teachers are training themselves online into the use of Virtual tools and resources, designing plans for Virtual lessons, aligning students sitting at their homes to school routines through scheduled lessons and work-plans. Not just academic subjects, our children are also enjoying dance, music, art, yoga theatre and sports lessons through blended learning. In the magical hands of passionate educators, the world-wide-web also turns into a vast pool of marvelous resources and children are actively engaging in exploration and learning like never before.

Everyone is trying. There are endless conjectures and various versions, but no one really seems to know how long? For how long would this war against the Virus continue? For how long would children have to stay isolated and confined to their homes. For how long can children be told to just read and binge-watch videos or isolation games.

What we now know is, this. Educators will continue their work undisrupted. This year will not be wasted for our learners. From life skills to science, technology, literature and music, our children will continue the balance of life and learning.

This crisis may leave us with learning beyond measure as educators and learners. It may make us rethink the systems that bind and restrict school education. The ‘weapons of mass instruction’ may finally emerge as constructive harbingers of an enlightened tomorrow. The future is different and it calls for change. It calls for a metamorphosis and this is happening.

It is one thing to have Remote Learning Programmes in schools under normal circumstances, while it is in fact quite another when each educator is also ensconced in a work-from-home lockdown situation with similar challenges as parents. Amidst this crisis, teachers have shown their sheer love for children. Sheer compassion is making them reach out to each child and make a difference… 

Also read: ECA recommendations for COVID 19 lock down

I had stopped smiling. I was mostly angry and upset. 

 I heard the phone ringing and ‘Hello Kaavya’ said Ms. Monika over the call. A smile plastered my face before I realized. She wanted to speak to my parents and told us about Virtual classes, audible books, language enrichment, Reasoning task sheets and so much more…

I simply love it now, my virtual school. I wake up each day looking forward to the new challenges and experiences with my school mates and teachers. We laugh and play and share over the video calls. We learn, we dance, we chat and we exercise with the PT and Yoga teachers and we sing and engage in blissful dramatic improvisations. Yesterday, I played the dwarf from Snow White and today we are exploring characters from the fables. I have been reading some really interesting books and even listening to some. I have been recording and sharing videos with my teachers. Quarantined but I am not alone + Amrita VohraIt is so much fun. I am gaining more confidence in mathematics, as I have been solving those graded adaptive series of problems. The challenge increases each time I solve one. It’s like the levels in a video game. I am a confident busy girl. I don’t have to beg Mumma to play with me. I can play with my friends online. I set short-term goals with my teacher and strive to achieve these each day. I am at home, but I am no longer alone. 

I am learning. I am growing. I am happy as learning is not quarantined…        

– Dr Amrita Vohra, Director Education – GEMS India & Executive Principal – GEMS International School, Gurgaon

The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in the article belong solely to the author, and not necessarily reflect the views, thoughts, and opinions of EducationWorld.

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