NAT 200331 E-LEARNING 222-1587368389258
Left to Right, Ayanca Deanne, Nalin Fernando, Nirmali Fernando and Aidan Fernando, doing e-learning from home during the Dubai lockdown in their appartment in Al Nada. Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: Teachers have been feted and students applauded. But in the discussion about the successes of remote learning, not enough has been said about the efforts of parents, often mothers, who are spending hours every day making it a reality.

In addition to preparing meals for children, working from home and taking care of all their daily needs, mothers must now sit through online lessons, supply resources for learning and help children understand maths and language-based concepts. While older learners are more independent, the burden on mothers with young children can often become overwhelming.

Nirmala Palsami

“For the first two weeks, I spent hours every day simply prepping for the lessons, printing out materials and understanding the way my daughter has been taught certain concepts at school,” Nirmala Palsami, 37, an architect from India, told Gulf News.

“Because my daughter is just five years old, it is a challenge getting her to stay focused on the lessons, especially at a time when she feels bored at home. While she loves school, I worry that the requirement to submit assignments might cause her to lose interest in her lessons in the long term,” she said.

The UAE implemented remote learning on March 22 in order to limit the coronavirus outbreak. The initiative was mandated for students from kindergarten to university level, with schools allowed to use a range of meeting and education softwares to deliver material.

Teachers have been using a range of methods to reach out to their students, including live sessions, video demonstrations and online activities and tasks.

However, remote learning remains challenging, especially for younger learners who prefer face-to-face interactions and hands-on learning.

One parent who preferred to remain anonymous said she spends upwards of four hours every day to complete the most basic activities for her son, who is enrolled in KG1, even as she has to work from home.

“Young children are naturally active, and find it hard to focus on instructions delivered via a screen. They also comply less with directives from parents compared to what their teachers tell them. As a result, I spend hours getting him to complete his lessons, and my work suffers more than I would want it to. This is not to mention the time I have to spend getting him to eat his meals during breaks,” she said.

While learning for younger children can be more a more time-intensive and tedious task, parents with children of determination undoubtedly have it the hardest.

Sharifah Al Hammadi, 50, an Emirati academic quality improvement officer, said she has to support her four children every day, including her son in Grade 6 who is determined.

Sharifah Al Hammadi

“Subjects like maths, science and digital technology are harder for my children since they are in English. I was also finding it especially difficult to teach my son, but fortunately, the Ministry of Education has recently assigned a shadow teacher who connects with him on Zoom,” she said.

Of course, older children require the least assistance with remote learning. But parents said the support they require is of a different nature, and that providing it is just as essential.

Adel Al Alawi

“One cannot ignore just how much effort parents have to expend to help children stay mentally well and motivated during this period. My wife helps minimise distractions while the children are studying, and provides regular meals, while we both work to keep them interested in their lessons,” said Adel Al Alawi, 54, a recruiter and father-of-three from Bahrain. His three children are currently enrolled in grades 8, 10 and 12.

With remote learning set to continue into June, parents will continue having to double up as teachers for the near future.

“It certainly isn’t easy, but I suppose it is simply necessary under the circumstances. We can only hope schools will work to make it easy for parents while also offering supportive fee reductions,” Palsami said.