COVID-19: Impact of mandatory online learning on single parents

By Pauline Wangari

The closure of most educational facilities following the spread of the Coronavirus, affected more than millions of students around the world. Technology took over as the most appropriate way to keep the education system functional.

The shift from a traditional learning setup to digital learning has had an effect on both the learners and their parents. This is according to Chang, G. C., & Yano, S. in their article How are countries addressing the Covid-19 challenges in education? A snapshot of policy measures.

Based on Learning in Times of COVID-19: Experiences of Parents-Journal of Education and Educational Development” this blog explores mandatory online learning, which left single parents with impossible choices

  1. Economic strain

Closure of learning institutions brought about an economic strain particularly on the less fortunate students. According to a Toronto Star article, most parents are unable to afford both the internet and the devices that their children need for online learning. “Internet access is quite expensive.” A single mother of three is quoted saying. Parents have had among other things to buy more computers in order to fill the need.

  1. Priorities and balance

UNESCO noted that parents have admitted that they now have much more time to spend with their children during online learning. However, the challenge comes where these parents have to juggle between many tasks while having to actively participate in their children’s education, more so for those working from home and especially if it is a single parent having to deal with all of these.

  1. Balancing multiple levels of learners at home

In most cases, children in a given household are in different grade levels. It is therefore difficult to manage multiple level children in the home with their schooling. “Try to help two kids at once with different subjects and who are at different grades.” Was how one single parent described this struggle.

  1. Insufficient space

Following the imposed lockdowns, homes are now being forced to multi function, both as schools and workplaces. This forced parents to find creative ways on how to manage the little space that they have. There is a scramble for space during the various zoom meetings. This was drawn from a senior worker at the. “We are at home working alongside our kids, in unsuitable spaces, with no spaces.” Quotes the Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research (SIEPR).

  1. Difficulties managing and keeping children busy

It should be expected that a change in routine would eventually lead to laxity creeping in. Children no longer had to get up for school and some have therefore taken this time as a mini-vacation. Managing children with this mentality has proven to be an extreme sport to parents.

  1. Learner special needs-disability challenges

There are some parents whose children have a form of disability. It has been extremely difficult for a parent to meet the disability-related needs of such children during this period of school closure. Teachers in disability schools are well trained and know how to handle kids with disabilities. A parent of children with learning disabilities shared the following sentiments: “My biggest struggles have been in working with my daughters (grades 3 and 5) who struggle with learning disabilities (dyslexia and ADD respectively). I am not equipped to try to teach them seeing that both struggle with organization and focus. This has resulted in several long days when the guidance from their elementary school has been that work should take approximately one hour daily to complete. In reality a normal day is 3-4 hours and some are 7-8 hours”

What needs to be done?

While this mode of learning still continues, parents and guardians are advised to monitor their children’s learning, put preventive measures in place and create a conducive environment for online learning. Respective governments equally need to offer assistance more so to those families whereby technology is rather hard to afford. The Centers for Disease Control, CDC acknowledges that learning to manage the stress in a healthy way will help both the parents and their children.

~By Pauline Wangari. Edited for Wakenya Canada by Essie Wambui.

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