Online schooling at home hard but not all bad: expat parents

By Viet Anh   September 6, 2021 | 06:15 pm PT
Online schooling at home hard but not all bad: expat parents
Women clean up a classroom at a primary school in HCMC as students took a prolonged Tet break due to Covid-19, February 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Quynh Tran
When her children attended the online opening ceremony for the new school year in mid-August, Desiani Haf, an Indonesian living in Hanoi, felt a bit "strange."

She had been hoping to take them to school to enjoy the atmosphere, but Hanoi authorities instructed schools to function virtually activities in an effort to contain Covid-19.

She said online classes are hard for both students and parents. She and her husband are helping their children keep up with lessons while also doing their own work and coping with problems caused by Covid.

Without direct interactions with teachers and friends, they become uninterested and lazy, she complained.

The situation has proved difficult for many expat parents in Vietnam too.

Ricky Valkeneer, a Dutchman, has to teach his seven-year-old daughter as much as possible since she cannot go to school. At the same time, he has been struggling financially since his salary has been cut.

He organizes a science class using the Stem methodology he learned as a teacher, and encourages his daughter to sit down and review the math she learned at school in grade one so that she would not fall much behind.

Valkeneer and his wife have decided to return home to the Netherlands after they had a second child recently. It means their daughter will have to learn a new language in second grade, and so he is also trying to speak with her as much as possible in his native language.

Ricky Valkeneer (C) with his wife and daughter in Hanoi, May 2020. Photo courtesy of Ricky Valkeneer

Ricky Valkeneer (C) with his wife and daughter in Hanoi, May 2020. Photo courtesy of Ricky Valkeneer

He said since Covid would not go away soon, kids would lack knowledge and social skills in future due to learning online. There is a lot of pressure on the shoulders of parents to support their kids while having their own work to do as well.

"But we have to try because we want the best for our kids."

Louis Martin, a South African who has two girls aged eight and four, said their only option during social distancing is to attend age-appropriate online classes, permitting them to meet in a group session typically once each week. While it is not ideal, it helps them keep abreast of the curriculum as best they can.

Spending too much time in front of a screen at this age is not great "but it is what it is," he said.

While the older child is keeping up pretty well under the circumstances because she can use a computer, Martin and his wife, who are also working full time, have to assist the other, who struggles with concentration due to her age.

Luckily, his kids can hang out regularly with school friends living in the same area.

Chandni Agnani Bhushan, an Indian living in HCMC, said online schooling is not good for her six-year-old and does not provide the outcome one expects. The learning options are limited, there is no access to facilities and there is little social interaction, she said. All these definitely impact the overall learning process, she said.

She said even her younger child, who is 2.5 years old, attends online classes.

Having started a new school year in virtual mode, both kids have yet to meet their teachers or classmates, and they may not for some more time.

Bhushan said the most important aspect during Covid is to support her children emotionally. So she keeps talking to them, keeps them engaged and "does not leave them at the mercy of screen time."

She admitted however she was constantly struggling to both manage household work and take care of the kids.

Children could be more resilient

Looking ahead, Haf said she expected schools to make something "more simple, easy to accept and remember" for students if they have to continue to study online in the long term due to the pandemic.

She said teachers too are trying hard for their students while also coping with their own hardships. She hoped teachers and parents would stand hand in hand and not complain about each other so that they could help their kids do well in this stressful time.

Desiani Haf is in Sapa in 2020. Photo courtesy of Desiani Haf.

Desiani Haf is in Hanoi in 2020. Photo courtesy of Desiani Haf

Her children and their school have done a good job so far, she said. During the online opening ceremony, her kids were excited to talk to their teachers and friends, even new classmates, and seemed to be familiar with online gatherings, she said.

The school had sent their books and everything else they needed by courier.

"Virtual learning could help my boy and girl avoid the risk of being infected, especially at a time when the Delta variant is more infectious. It is the best choice at this moment."

Haf is optimistic her kids would become mentally stronger since Covid has taught them good lessons.

Valkeneer said his daughter is asking a lot of questions for her age about why and how. After experiencing Covid, children’s resilience is likely to improve as they learn to adapt quickly to various situations, he said.

Martin said there was nothing wrong with learning from home as long as there were appropriate resources. He would only have been worried if there were no online classes provided by the school, he said.

Bhushan said she was hopeful the Covid situation in Vietnam would get better soon. But if things do not return to normal quickly, people need to treat online schooling as the new normal for the year, she said.

It is tough for parents to always remain positive and upbeat with the children but that is what they need to do, she said. She too was optimistic her kids would become more resilient after experiencing Covid.

"Having gone through these adverse situations has brought a [new] perspective in their lives. Valuing what you have and adapting to what is available are definitely great takeaways for the future."

VnExpress Hope Foundation's program "Computers for Students" aims to provide tablets, laptops and computers for 3,300 students in circumstances, helping them with access to online education. For more information, kindly refer to this link.

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