We must ensure that teachers receive the support they have earned
The pandemic has prominently disintegrated multiple sectors across the world. While some sectors are getting proper support through policy reforms and dialogues, the attention towards education in Bangladesh has been rather bleak. School -- the second home for children -- has become a distant memory to some, and not even witnessed at all by a new generation.
Most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to control the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic. This has increased the adaptation of remote learning through online platforms. Teachers are conducting classes through Zoom or Google and parents are having to monitor the children when they are online.
While people can assume the mental toll of managing a household and monitoring children, an equivalent burden on teachers has gotten heavier over the past months. These adversities have resulted in a situation of civil conflict between teachers and parents to a certain degree.
A pool of teachers from urban schools have been asked to share their experience of teaching during the pandemic. Many schools have been forced to shut down, dismiss teachers, or cut down their employees’ salary. A majority of educators have reported that the pandemic has led to significantly intensified workloads for them, as they not only have to prepare and transfer study materials online, but they also have to learn and be proficient in navigating the multiple necessary tools and gadgets.
They had to purchase a smartphone, a tablet, or a laptop despite pay cuts or dismissal of festival bonuses. Regardless of this, teachers have shown themselves to be remarkably resilient by adapting to new technology in a short span of time. However, older tutors felt overwhelmed and had to resign due to their lack of technological adaptability. Plenty of teachers had to take additional responsibilities in order to retain their jobs. Lack of proper infrastructural facilities by school administration and at residence is a persistent obstacle.
Teachers are facing challenges such as large numbers of students in virtual classes. It has become difficult to grasp the attention of students on certain days but on good days, lessons go smoothly. The eagerness of students fluctuates but they are often enthusiastic to interact with their preferable teachers or if it is their favourite subjects. The online classes take a lot of time and the most difficult part is that students do tend to lose their interest no matter how much the educators give their best.
There are also teachers who additionally have to support themselves through private tuitions apart from the long-working hours spent on online classes and preparation. Dividing school work, private tuitions, and family care among daily household work has been detrimental for everyone’s mental, physical, and financial well-being.
All of this would have been tolerable if teachers didn’t face criticism from parents or online bullying from students. Signing in with offensive usernames is often reported by school teachers. Screenshots of teachers (and sometimes students) from online classes are frequently shared as funny caption photos (memes) or short video clips (Boomerang) across Facebook and Instagram. Who is going to be in charge of ethics and morals in education now?
Parents are quite worried for the safety and health of their children as kids are using electronic devices more than ever. Excess screen time is known to be harmful for people of all ages. However, children tend to be more susceptible to the threat. Classwork and homework mostly require working on a device unless it is manual creative work.
Affordability and accessibility to these devices have also instigated a lot of strain on parents with school-going children, especially for people who have to work from home and require their own time and space to keep their livelihood and sanity intact.
Parents, teachers, and children feel remorseful that kids are not being able to play at their school’s premises. Physical activities of children have reduced over time as both their school work and homework are done more or less on devices. Tasks require parental supervision. Access to playgrounds or playmates are unfortunately out of bounds now.
Some parents have resorted to sending their children back to their private tutors for ease in education. People facing personal salary cuts were not spared from perpetual tuition fees, and some parents who were disappointed with the teachers or lack of cooperation from schools escalated the situation to a legal case. They were protesting the reluctance of schools in reducing fees and the verdict is still unknown.
Teachers are nonetheless juggling numerous pressures associated with online teaching, including long hours and heavy workloads, as they plan their work, provide student feedback, and try to be a constant online presence to respond to pupils and school administration needs.
Parents often unintentionally end up playing the role of an anti-hero. The battle between teachers and parents leaves a distorted impression on the next generation. Children end up suffering the most during these traumatic events. In these trying times during a global pandemic, people should try to be more compassionate and kind-hearted towards each other.
There are many unsung heroes in the community who have come forward to help teachers in learning how to manage online classes, give study materials, and take exams. Websites and Facebook entities such as Teachers Without Borders – Bangladesh, Online Teaching and Learning, Dikkha, and more have taken the initiative to make the online schooling and studying experience smoother for all.
They hold workshops, train, hire, and also equip teachers with the necessary tools and platforms one can use to conduct efficient, educational online classes through a user-friendly interface.
As more and more schools are taking preparations to bring their students under online coverage, the coronavirus pandemic threatens to afflict all parties for an indefinite period. Therefore, on top of insufficiency in learning, school closures have extensive impacts on social and economic issues such as the digital divide, physical health, household environment, and child care.
Reopening schools is still out of the question due to major health and risk control measurement concerns. Children across most of Europe have started to attend the start of a new school year, but in several parts of the world, including Bangladesh, coronavirus constraints have kept classrooms closed.
It is time to rethink education and educators, and initiate positive change to ensure that teachers receive the respect they rightfully deserve. Only these torchbearers can bridge the gap and collectively facilitate creating education systems that are more compliant, unbiased, and inclusive in the new future.
Tanishaa Arman Akangkha is a writer and a former school teacher. For comments or queries, email her at [email protected]