By: Sabah Ahmed, Toronto
With the schools across Ontario welcoming their students to in-person learning on Monday, parents and teachers are anticipating chaos. Earlier this week, the news of the switch to classrooms from Premier Doug Ford’s media spokesperson has been subject to mixed reviews. Many parents and educators are concerned for the safety of students, as several children remain unvaccinated. On the other side of the spectrum, some people regard this decision as necessary.
Sana Farhan, a mother of two boys aged 7 and 9, finds the school situation overwhelming. To keep her family safe from the latest Covid-19 wave Sana and her husband got their booster shots last week. She ensured that her children were vaccinated too before schools opened their doors to in-person learning.
While speaking to S@Y News, Sana said, “I’m not sure what to expect. One moment I am happy that the children will go to school and exhaust themselves mentally and physically, which is essential for their growth. But the other moment, I’m worried. I don’t want my kids to get infected. I don’t know what to do.”
Despite wanting to work full time, Sana has opted to stay at home for now. She says it will help her cater to her family in the event of a complete lockdown.
Last year, Sana and her husband decided to switch their children from in-person to virtual learning. The decision came with heavy sacrifices - both mental and physical. This year, the couple is reluctant to keep the boys locked inside.
Sana added, “Sometimes, I think that I should have chosen remote learning for the kids this year as well. At least, they would have been safe. But when I think that my children will be staying at home for a second year, it really becomes a hard decision. They want to go out. They want to interact and grow in the sun.”
With the school moving to online learning for the past two weeks, Sana had to change her morning routine to attend to her children. Sometimes, she has to spend her evening time helping the kids complete their class assignments, which they turn a blind eye to during the day.
“Children don’t consider remote-learning similar to school. They try to skip classwork whenever they get a chance. I often have to make them do their work in the evening. It’s like pushing the kids to learn all day long. They are not even happy.”
Just across Sana’s apartment building, a single mother from India, Yasmeen, lives in Scarborough’s village. A stay-at-home parent, Yasmeen finds remote-learning nerve-racking. With her 8 children aged 4 to 16, all glued to different gadgets, Yasmeen is unable to complete her home chores on time. She is constantly on her feet in her small, two-bedroom house, catering to their needs till afternoon. With no partner to support her during the lockdown, Yasmeen feels her mental health has hit rock bottom during the pandemic.
While speaking to S@Y correspondent, Yasmeen said, “There is no end in sight. God knows when this [pandemic] will end, and things will go back to normal. For single parents, remote-learning is like a nightmare.”
Last year, a survey carried out by Leger and the Association of Canadian Studies showed that women, single parents, and new immigrants’ mental health was deteriorating. 40% of single parents described their stress levels as “very bad.”
Parents found themselves grappling between work and home when private, and public schools across Ontario moved to virtual learning two weeks ago. Although children and parents were familiar with transitioning online during the latest lockdown, it proved most challenging for single parents and large families. With no end in sight, single parents are feeling the burn of the pandemic. Omicron by far is the most contagious variant, with nearly 10,000 infections reported daily in Ontario.