Abu Dhabi: While distance learning has posed a challenge for all during the coronavirus pandemic, children of healthcare workers have arguably had it the hardest.
Speaking to Gulf News, nurses and doctors explained that they often schedule learning for young children in the evening hours, and focus on core lessons to ensure that they don’t fall behind in all areas.
“We have found remote learning to be a challenge because our daughters are both very young. They need constant support to get through the live sessions, then there are activities to complete afterwards. If my wife weren’t on leave, it would have been very difficult to get through this,” Dr Hussain Al Shamari, specialist physician for emergency medicine at Al Ain Hospital, told Gulf News.
His daughters are enrolled in KG2 and Grade 1 at an American curriculum school, and Dr Al Shamari explained that his wife has had to juggle Ramadan duties, household chores and remote learning throughout the day.
“The biggest struggle arises because my daughters are very young. They cannot access live sessions on their own or upload their work, which is why all learning has to be supervised. With me being away at work every day, it has not been easy, so my wife spaces out the tasks so she can pay attention when they do their lessons,” he explained.
The UAE rolled out remote learning on March 22 as a precautionary measure against the coronavirus outbreak. Since then, public and private schools, as well as universities, have been using a number of e-learning platforms to deliver content in live sessions and assignments.
The Ministry of Education has also announced that remote learning will continue at least until June, which is the end of the 2019/20 academic year at many schools.
According to Hina Raheel, clinical trainer for nurses at Medicare Hospital, the level of difficulty with remote learning can differ based on children’s personalities.
“My older daughter has always been diligent, and although she is just in Grade 4, she is able to complete her work on her own. For my younger daughter however, I set aside time in the evenings, and we do some of the more demanding tasks on my days off,” she said.
Raheel is at work from 7am to 7pm, and even though her husband is home, he is caught up with work responsibilities.
“He can help her log in to the sessions, but I have to sit down with her to complete much of the work afterwards. We are doing our best under the circumstances, but I do worry that children will fall behind without the lack of classroom experience,” she said.
Keeping these difficulties in mind, Abu Dhabi’s education regulator, the Abu Dhabi Department of Education and Knowledge (ADEK), is set to launch a learning support programme for doctors and nurses working at the Sheikh Khalifa Medical City, the capital’s premier public hospital. The programme will recruit volunteers from Zayed University to assist children enrolled from kindergarten to Grade 6 in the core subjects of English, Math, Science and Arabic.
“It has been very unusual to manage learning in this manner. My three boys are all teenagers, with the youngest 15 years old, yet I still check in with them after work to ensure that they are keeping up with their studies,” said Fatima Al Shamsi, an Emirati nursing manager for the medical unit at Al Ain Hospital.
“I also remind my children that they are blessed to have access to such remote learning facilities, especially in the comfort of their own homes. I tell them they can sleep in more, yet continue with their studies during this pandemic. Indeed, we have our government to thank for this wise direction to keep our children safe,” she added.
Dr Naveed Ahmed, interventional cardiologist at Aster Hospital Mankhool, said it also helps once children are able to connect with their friends.
“At first my daughter found it hard, but she spends some time after the remote learning sessions talking to her friends, and quite enjoys it. It has made the process easier,” he said.
Tips to ease remote learning
- Maintain a daily schedule for children so that children are in the frame of mind to learn
- Set aside a corner of the house without distractions to log on to live sessions and complete schoolwork
- Prioritise lessons in music and art to allow children a break from text-heavy work
- Communicate with teachers to set up a flexible schedule if needed
- Help children connect with their peers for non-learning related interaction