Children are headed back to school after months of lockdown all around the world. In some cases that means temperature checks by security guards at the school gates; in others it’s Zoom schooling gone wild.
Kola Tubosun, a Nigerian linguist, has two children aged 6 and 15 who go to different schools in Lagos. “Over the summer they had classes online. It was nice because we were home and able to monitor them,” he says, despite having to pay for more internet. “ We heard today that the Nigerian government wants kids back to school in September but people don’t trust much of what the government does. Have they put anything in place to make sure kids are safe? Kids themselves may be safe from the virus but they’re vectors. If they go to school, all distancing we’ve done for these past couple of months [is for nothing.] It’s a risk. So we don’t know what we’re going to do. We may continue distance learning, but many parents don’t have that luxury. If they stagger classes, if they can show they can better enforce distancing in school, I’d be open to one day a week or something like that.”
Kola Tubosun contributed to Stranger’s Guide: Lagos.
In Guangzhou, China, parents take their children’s temperature every morning and send the results to their teachers via Chinese social media program WeChat. Once the kids are dropped off outside the campus, they have their temperatures taken again by security guards before entering school one-by-one, three feet apart. According to education website EdSource, students then sit at desks three feet from their closest classmates.
Schools have also reopened in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus was first identified, with mandatory temperature checks and instruction on hand-washing techniques.
Schools resumed in-person classes one day a week starting on 11 May, with distance learning the norm the other four days in New South Wales, Australia, according to Education Week. Individual schools decide how to manage the rollout—some have different grades go in on certain days; others divide students up alphabetically, almost always with staggered arrival and departure times. “The education department also made sure every school has a thermometer in case students report not feeling well.”
Dan Gyves, a father of two children aged 9 and 11 in London, England, is relatively comfortable with how the school his kids go to are managing the process. “Back to school is all about bubbles and who you bubble with. In fairness the process has been pretty good,” he says. “Staggered form start dates and staggered start times are supposed to ensure kids stay in their year group bubbles throughout the day, and they sort of work. Schools (at least ours) have been super organized and have embraced digital solutions and practical advice for parents.”
The problem, Gyves says, is the children. “Once they leave school all the year groups mix, play and hug in the park so all the good work is kind of wasted. Sales of caution tape and arrows must have gone through the roof and there are more one-way systems in place than in Soho. Everyone is doing their bit, although with all the face masks, gloves and visors, teachers look more like they are about to attempt root canal surgery than explain the area of a circle.”