How 2020 will be a year Ontario’s students remember (and perhaps not in a good way)

Repeated teachers' strikes and a school shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic are making it a challenging year for students

It's been a tough year for Ledia Dervishaj and her eldest son, David, who is in Grade 9 in the Greater Toronto Area. SUBMITTED PHOTO

As the world adapts to a new pace of life dictated by the coronavirus, parents and children are dealing with a new reality no one could have foreseen. On Thursday, Ontario Premier Doug Ford said public schools will not reopen May 4 as planned, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced on Tuesday that Canada is still weeks away from lifting coronavirus restrictions.

Many worries and concerns are emerging for parents and children in this time of self-isolation and online learning.

‘It was really frustrating’

In Februrary and March, Ontario students were kept home by teachers’ strikes that lasted one or two days in every 10, depending on the school system and union involved. This was especially challenging for some parents with children of different ages or who were at different schools.

Then, the coronavirus pandemic hit Ontario and forced public schools, colleges and universities to close. After a few weeks off, public school students are now working with their teachers online.

“What I found challenging, having two kids of different ages, was to arrange my days to take care of both of my sons. At times, I had to wake up at 5 a.m. It was really frustrating,” said Ledia Dervishaj, mother of David, 14, and Aaron, 6, in a video interview.

Watch parents and students share their thoughts:

It’s the first year her children have been enrolled in school in Canada. Dervishaj moved to Toronto in April 2019 from Albania, and she was joined by her husband and two sons in September.

She chose Canada — and Toronto specifically — due, in part, to the fact that several members of her family live here. Dervishaj enrolled in a postgraduate business management course at Centennial College last May.

She and her husband were hopeful to gain valuable work experience in trade and finance and offer their sons quality education. The family rents an apartment in the Yonge and Eglinton area.

“My sons have been through a lot of changes — new place, new language, new societal norms,” said Dervishaj.

“We thought of giving them new opportunities … but what we got was something unexpected.”

“My life in quarantine hasn’t been the best. We don’t know when school will resume, or if it will, even.”

—David Dervishaj, Grade 9

Her eldest son, David, who is in Grade 9 at North Toronto Collegiate Institute, didn’t anticipate his first school year in Canada to unfold the way it did.

“As a newcomer, this is not what I expected at all. I never expected to be greeted with the strikes and the coronavirus going around,” he said in a video interview.

“My life in quarantine hasn’t been the best. We don’t know when school will resume, or if it will, even.”

Since the province introduced online schooling, he has half the hours of class he used to have in school — no more than three hours of online classes a day. David fills his time playing video games, reading online and playing guitar.

‘Our education is being taken away’

The unexpected changes have caused a lot of anxiety and concerns among students, especially those on the brink of entering high school.

“Our education is being taken away. We’re not learning anything right now,” said Maya, a 13-year-old Grade 8 student whose family asked her last name not to be used.

“It’s really stressful, especially because I’m in my last year of elementary school, and I’m starting high school next year … So I won’t be prepared.”

Maya is using this time of self-isolation to reflect on everything, but not knowing how long this pandemic will last and when she will be able to go back to school makes her anxious.

“It’s really confusing for students … We’re not fully aware and informed of what’s going on,” she said.

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At the same time, there seem to be some positive aspects emerging from this situation.

“I think it’s a good opportunity for kids to be able to focus on getting themselves together because it’s a good time for us to isolate ourselves completely from everything, get some time to ourselves, and reflect,” Maya said.

Her mother, Nisha Kumar, said she is proud how Maya is embracing this new reality. Her daughter is currently self-isolating with her father, and the two are within 10 minutes from each other.

“It’s a chance to get connected with what’s really important, and put our energy and focus there,” said Kumar.

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Posted: Apr 12 2020 9:34 pm
Filed under: News