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Hanoi schools face renewed challenge as Covid resurges

By Duong Tam, Thanh Hang   February 26, 2022 | 05:04 pm PT
As Covid rages again in Hanoi, schools are struggling to cope with the disease’s spread and resultant staff shortages.

The number of staff infected with Covid or coming into contact with patients and requiring quarantining has increased dramatically in the past week, putting "unprecedented pressure" on its administrators and teachers, Kim No Primary School in Dong Anh District said.

As of February 23 it said 21 out of 70 employees had contracted the disease. Of its 1,934 students, nearly 200 are infected and over 400 others have been classified as F1 after coming in contact with infected people.

It switched some classes back online after a teacher was infected and infection and F1 numbers among students exceeded 60 percent.

Only seven out of 39 classes remain open.

People in front of Kim Mo Primary School on Feb. 10, 2022. Photo courtesy of the school

Kim No Primary School in Hanoi’s Dong Anh District, Feb. 10, 2022. Photo courtesy of the school

But the school lacks the equipment for both in-person and online classes at the same time.

Bui Thi Sinh, its principal, said teachers are using a laptop to show slides and another device to live-stream the lecture to students at home.

While the school has sought additional funding from parents, it has not been able to find the money to buy the equipment needed to record lessons for online classes.

Some teachers have to borrow from others to provide online lessons, Sinh said.

Every day she receives many calls from parents of students in various grades entreating her to let their children study online to remain safe from Covid.

She expressed sympathy for their fears, especially with the number of infections climbing steadily in Hanoi.

The capital has been leading the country in daily counts for weeks, with nearly 10,800 discovered on Saturday.

Every day the school must assess the rate of staff and student absenteeism and adjust teaching methods for classes with high infection rates.

Though some tasks are handled by the two vice principals, most issues require Sinh to personally handle them and report to the management board.

The principal of a secondary school said the school is under much pressure since the number of infections has been soaring.

A third of its teachers have gone down with the disease.

The shortage of staff means the principal has to run the school, teach and also do clerical work.

Though some classrooms are equipped with specialized cameras so that infected students at home can see the lectures, the principal did not expect the number of students staying at home to be so high and fears the blend of online and offline teaching will detract from the quality of education.

Due to the cold weather in the north and Covid concerns, Kinh Do School in Hanoi's Dong Anh District, which has classes from one to 12, had to agree last Friday to let 100 students switch back to remote learning.

As a result some classes only have a few students.

A third of high school teachers at Kinh Do have also contracted Covid or become F1, over 50 percent of students in two classes have to be isolated and every class has children studying online.

The school lets students study online when over 50 percent of students have Covid or become F1.

With nearly 200 students contracting Covid and 600 F1 students, accounting for over 43 percent of its total strength, Yen Hoa High School in Cau Giay District has to decide which classes can continue and which have to go back online.

Student attend class at Hai Boi Primary School in Hanois Dong Anh District. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hang

Students attend class at Hai Boi Primary School in Hanoi's Dong Anh District. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Hang

Hoang Huu Niem, principal of Kinh Do School, said when parents say their children are F1, the school allows them to attend online classes without verifying whether the information is accurate.

Admittedly, it is difficult to verify each case, he pointed out.

"I direct teachers to encourage students to come to school by telling them in-person learning is more effective than online lessons. In the near future, based on the situation, the school will make plans for holding extra classes to compensate students for their learning losses.

Answering a question about whether to completely return to online learning, the principal of a secondary school in the suburbs of Hanoi said it should be flexible and depend on the situation, especially Covid situation, at each place.

But authorities should provide clear directions on when schools could switch back to online learning, he said.

For example, in Thanh Hoa Town in the central province of the same name, the people's committee has set clear-cut criteria for schools to decide whether to switch to online classes.

In preschool and primary schools, if a class has 10 or more students with Covid, it will switch to online lessons. Middle and high schools will revert to remote learning only when one third of the students test positive.

"If Hanoi also has such clear regulations, it will be easier for us to make decisions," the principal said.

 
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