CHENNAI: Greetings from Bengaluru where all pre-primary and primary schools are on indefinite leave due to COVID 19. Please be advised before you read this that I am not a doctor, or a health expert or even a parenting expert. My apologies if you’ve been reading this column for four years now under the last misconception. I am as confused as the rest of you and am mostly winging it. More so now, in the time of COVID 19 than before.
This column doesn’t contain any medical advice, recipes for herbal concoctions that will ‘cure’ COVID 19 nor is there insider information on what is actually going on. Instead, it’s an appeal to my fellow parents to Keep Calm and Carry On. Or, Be Sensible and Carry On. Or, Be Sensible and Use Your Brains. Or Stop Going Crazy on WhatsApp. While I understand how confusing and quite frankly terrifying all of this is, I’d like to suggest some Parent Group WhatsApp Etiquette.
1. Stop forwarding anything and everything you receive on WhatsApp to other WhatsApp groups. We are all on social media. We all have aunties who think we should rub garlic on our buttholes to ward off the virus. We have all received the forward about the classmate’s uncle and nephew who work in Shenzen Hospital and are telling everyone to eat chillies, ginger and pepper. Yes, rasam was created in the Matsya Purana by Maha Vishnu because he knew COVID 19 was coming. Only forward information from verified sources. And before you send it out, do a scroll back and see if it’s already been shared. Please call out fake news when you receive it.
2. Please don’t screenshot emails between your school management and parents and forward them on other groups. This does not help, and adds to the confusion and swirl of stories.
3. Allow your school sufficient time to create a contingency plan and respond to the situation as it develops. Sending ‘Why hasn’t the school done anything yet?’ to your grade WhatsApp group is not useful. This is a new situation for schools too, which are complex organisations with many stakeholders to care for. Allow them the time to put together a plan of action that works best for everyone and communicate the same to you. Also, remember that school administration is not a school administration 24/7. They also have families and lives in the evenings to tend to, so do not expect an email immediately once the Government declares a holiday. When it comes at 9.30 pm don’t be snarky on WhatsApp about how they’re so disorganised. Instead, assume that they spent that time to discuss what to do and draft a carefully worded email and perhaps eat dinner. (No, I don’t work at a school.)
4. Once indefinite leave for schools has been declared, please don’t respond asking ‘But what about the scheduled science test?’ Your child is in grade 3. Please sit.
5. If you have older children at home and are uncomfortable sending them to school too, don’t send them to school. Use your intuition as a parent. Do what feels right to you. Don’t ask everyone else what THEY are doing. Till whenever this is all over, please remember Keep Calm and Wash Your Hands with Soap While You Sing Happy Birthday Twice.
Menaka Raman @menakaraman