We are surviving

Calliope Wilson, a mother of two, said she’s coping a month after school was suspended due to the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in The Bahamas.

“The first couple of weeks, especially the first week, especially when I was still at work and they were trying to adjust to homeschooling home alone by themselves, was extremely stressful,” said Wilson.

But she said she and her girls have gotten to the point now where they’re coping.

“They may have gotten frustrated to the point of tears at times when it came to figuring out the different formats,” she said of the previous weeks of their doing schoolwork.

Wilson said math has been hard for them and a subject they’ve always struggled with. She attributes it to what she terms their “arts brains”.

But she says they’re pushing through because they have to and are getting better with it. She literally sits down with her daughters and does their math classes with them.

“I don’t give them the answers, but I double check and make sure they get to the right [answers], because I don’t know how else to teach them, except to literally kind of be like you’ve got to keeping doing it until you get the right answer and rechecking it.”

Wilson is just one of thousands of parents who find themselves in this position of having their children home from school at a time when they didn’t think they would be, as institutions of learning were closed to physical face-to-face instruction since March 15 after the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in The Bahamas.

In-country there are now 54 confirmed coronavirus cases with nine deaths and 895 people in quarantine. The global pandemic has infected 2,138,763 people and caused 142,735 deaths as of Thursday, April 16.

“Not to toot my children’s horns, but they’re good girls – they’re trying. I haven’t been trying to crack a whip over their heads,” said Wilson.

“They’re giving in their work and getting okay grades. They say to a certain extent they feel they get more work done because there’s less distraction and they can work at their own pace,” she said.

The parent of ninth and 10th grade students at Queen’s College also credited the teachers with doing their part and really trying. But she said it can become overwhelming receiving communications from all quarters and through all mediums.

She recalled early on in the school suspension being at work and getting messages to her cellphone and having to send messages home to her girls.

“While the access to the teachers is technically there, it isn’t really there, because they’re getting so inundated with emails and requests…and the amount of time it takes for you to hear back – you’re kind of guessing and doing things alone in the dark a lot of the time. But it is what it is. We are surviving.”

It was that constant barrage, she said, that was extremely stressful, but she said it has calmed down and they are coping.

“I understand why they’re doing it. I’m not bitter. I’m willing to pay my school fees because I know that they’re still working hard.”

Even though her children are at home, Wilson described the Easter break as a gift from God which she said allowed them and the teachers to regroup.

“Monday classes start up again, and we will jump right back in again,” she said.

She’s also grateful that this year isn’t one of those all-important national exam years for either of her children.

“My younger one was supposed to take one BJC (Bahamas Junior Certificate) in English literature this year – that’s not the biggest deal. That can be taken next year – and if she doesn’t take it, that’s not the end of the world.”

Wilson is also breathing a sigh of relief that both her girls got their own laptops at the beginning of the year, which she said is making things easier on them.

“We’re lucky. We’re in a comfortable home [and] by the grace of God, at the beginning of the year we got them their own laptop. It would not have been good if they both had not both had their own designated laptop, if they hadn’t had easy internet access – which I know a lot of people aren’t in the same boat.”

She also gives thanks for the fact that her girls are fairly confident and are at an independent stage, which allows her to do her work while they do theirs. She said she feels for a relative who has a child across the spectrum – kindergarten, primary school and high school, which means she has to deal with children at all different levels and still do her job.

“I at least technically can do my work while my kids can do theirs,” said the compliance officer and office manager at Maillis and Maillis law firm.

Another good thing out of the whole virtual school experience for her children, she said, is that it’s gotten her girls comfortable with the format.

“To a certain extent we have protected our children from internet as the schools have always recommended limit time, limit access and now it’s like all out access, so it’s been a learning process for us, for the teachers, for the kids. My older daughter has always dragged her feet when it comes to anything to do with email or anything like that [but] now she’s actually having to actively use her email account, get comfortable with video conferencing, things like that, tools that she will have to use into adulthood. They’ve learned how to Zoom conference their cousins and get some math help and things like that.”

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