BENGALURU: There is a first time for everything, they say. And thanks to COVID-19, I got my first experience in something recently. No, I don’t mean anything that would make a naughty mind jump up. And I don’t mean getting initiated into doing household chores, or wearing a mask either, even though the latter does hold true. Last week, I attended my first online parent-teacher meeting. And came out of it frayed, tired and smiling, all at once. Quite the way the kids felt after attending their first online class.
All my ecstasy about being able to log in at the first try soon evaporated when I realised that it was a group activity. The flip side of not having a job that involves frequent con-calls was apparent, as various faces and voices emerged and vanished in quick succession, leaving me feeling like I had entered a wrong party. If the lockdown has achieved something, it’s, no again, not the broken chain, but a tied-together-by-video-calls bevy of professionals. They were the confident lot. As for my confidence, well, it was quickly restored upon realising that there were some other parents who seemed to be more technologically challenged than me, struggling to switch off the video or the microphone, despite repeated appeals by the teacher.
But there were more first-time experiences to come. Unlike previous PTMs, which I dashed in and out of, this one needed longer participation, if only because it involved a new method of schooling. And for the first time, all the parents were privy to what others were discussing with the teacher. Which, I soon realised, would have made a very short list of common issues. Also, aided perhaps by the virtual attendance and work-from-home schedule, many fathers attended this meeting, even though it was held in the middle of a full-fledged working day. A heartening sight, for sure.
Amid all the concerns raised about homework, assessments and technical glitches, the most echoed one was about the government’s plan to reopen schools in July. Since the teachers are as clueless as everyone else, the issue lingered about as a huge elephant in the room. None of the parents spoke in favour of reopening the schools in a few weeks from now, preferring all the additional workload of taking printouts of assignments, checking emails from teachers, and keeping a tab on hundreds of messages in various WhatsApp groups, to waving goodbye to masked youngsters boarding sanitised school buses every morning.
All this was unimaginable in March, when the schools closed before the previous academic year ended. Most of us had thought then that this was a calamity with a short life. That we would be able to thwart coronavirus, crushing the head of the monster before the whole of its body emerged. That India was somehow different from the rest of the world, with our ‘higher’ immunity levels and BCG vaccine cards in place. But now, with the number of positive infection cases breaching new marks every day, we are left hoping that maybe the monster has gone past us, head and body, with only the tail left to be attended to. But deep inside we know that the monster is lurking around, unleashing its fury, and parents are afraid for their children. As each one of us should be.