Schools close, children free — parents face new conundrum

Updated Mar 14 2020

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A ROW of schools in Federal B Area that would normally be bustling with activity is eerily quiet on Friday.
—Fahim Siddiqi/White Star
A ROW of schools in Federal B Area that would normally be bustling with activity is eerily quiet on Friday. —Fahim Siddiqi/White Star

KARACHI: School’s out until May 30 and colleges and universities until further notice due to the coronavirus scare, and parents who used to send their children to summer school during vacations can’t do that either while the children also are sitting at home and getting bored.

“We are going to our offices as usual but for some reason they have decided to shut all the education institutions,” said a parent. “It is baffling because people are still going out and coming in contact with each other at other places. And one person who, God forbid, gets infected within a family will infect others at home also. So where is the logic in all this?” He asked.

“Both my wife and myself work and knowing that our children were busy at school and going for tuition or other sporting activities in the evening provided us with peace of mind. Now knowing that they are at home wasting their time or roaming around aimlessly with friends is frustrating,” he added.

One parent coming out of a mosque after Juma prayers asked the same question. “You cannot prevent a pandemic by just closing educational institutions,” he reminded.

“Earlier, the students were advised to use the time off to study for their exams, midterms or mock exams. But several exams or tests have also been postponed or cancelled giving the students an excuse to waste their time,” said a concerned mother.

Parents concerned about how to keep youngsters busy during closure

There were youngsters seen busy in various activities all over the city. “And this as only is just the beginning,” observed another parent.

There were young boys of about 10 or 12 years of age seen riding motorcycles. “My mother gave me the motorcycle keys herself,” young Abuzar told Dawn. “She said since I am home doing nothing, I might as well do some grocery before handing me her grocery list,” said the little boy with chicken and plastic bags with tomato, coriander and green chillies, and yogurt hanging from his motorcycle handles.

A few other boys not much older other than him were also seen zooming by and trying to do stunts on their father, uncle or cousins’ motorcycles with more friends in the form of pillion riders.

More neighbourhood home windows were at risk as the ‘mohalla XI’ teams were out on the roads playing cricket. And there were more scoldings heard when they rang house bells requesting for the ball back sometimes with apologies, sometimes with sheepish grins.

Some boys were also seen rollerblading too. Others were seen thronging DVD shops. In the evening the shopping mall food courts also had a majority of college or university-age people. And those who were discouraged to go out of the house and restrict outdoor activities just sat at home with their smartphones or in front of the television switching channels.

Meanwhile, Engineer Akbar, a school owner, wondered why the government only wanted educational institutions closed. “Yes, it is good to keep our young out of harm, but they cannot sit cooped up at home,” he said. “There will surely be more people seen in public parks now, hence more interaction,” he pointed out. “Also please tell me are the prisons of the country also sending prisoners home as a precaution? And have the countries also closed their courts due to the coronavirus scare?” He asked.

Payment of school fees

Another school owner was more worried about payment of school fees than the spread of virus. “I hope the parents won’t use this excuse to not pay school or tuition fees,” he said. “There are the teachers and the school staff who depend on the timely payment of school fees for their salaries, and Ramazan and Eid are also near,” he said.

“Yes, there is Ramazan coming up in April, in May there is Eidul Fitr with the new academic year also beginning in June. We also experience inflation by up to 200 or even 300 per cent during Ramazan after which new clothes for Eid takes out more from our pockets,” said another mother who has two school-going children. “Therefore, we want the schools to waive off at least three months’ fees since the children aren’t even attending schools. We parents also deserve to be given relief,” she concluded.

Published in Dawn, March 14th, 2020