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‘Children are crushed’ with online education as Hong Kong disrupts parents with early school breaks

Dozens of patients in beds were seen outside Caritas Medical Center in Hong Kong, amid a rise in infections in the city.

Leung Man Hei / NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Hong Kong’s plans to close schools early are worrying all year, parents say.
  • Parents and teachers are concerned about their children’s mental health and education.
  • For many children, the absence of friends increases and a physical space to learn anxiety.

Insurance agent Emily Kwong, 30, is struggling to homeschool her five-year-old daughter and is worried she has learned nothing because of Hong Kong’s strict Covid-19 restrictions that have forced toddlers and teens to go online.

New plans to close schools in early March “worry all year,” said Kwong, echoing concerns from parents and teachers at the Global Financial Center who are concerned about their children’s mental health and education.

“Just with the iPad, Zoom, for a full two years … next year she will be in year 1, and she will have learned nothing from the last two years,” Kwong said.

For many children, the absence of friends increases and a physical space to learn anxiety.

“The children are crushed. I absolutely feel with them that there is nothing left in them,” said a teacher at an international school who declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to the media.

Hong Kong is pursuing a “dynamic zero Covid” strategy similar to the Chinese mainland, which aims to eradicate any outbreak at any cost instead of trying to live with the virus.

Since the beginning of February, the number of daily infections has increased about 70 times.

READ | Hong Kong to test all three times, Cambodia vaccinates children aged 3 to 5 years

The move to allow all students to start their summer holidays in March to allow campuses to be used as test and vaccination sites has sparked a backlash.

Belinda Greer, executive director of the English Schools Foundation, which has 18,000 students in 22 schools, met with officials at the Education Bureau (EDB) on Wednesday and said she had shared concerns and was working to minimize disruption.

For students taking external exams this year, there would be some flexibility, she added.

“EDB has signaled that they have taken our perspective into account and we will continue to work with them to agree on the best way forward,” Greer said.

The holiday break runs until April 17, when the last day of the school year has been moved back to August, which disrupts teaching and learning.

There are about 900,000 students out of school more than two years after the pandemic started in 2020.

READ | Hong Kong in ‘all-out battle’ to curb Covid-19 outbreak with support from China

Many families in Chinese-controlled territory live in small, high-rise apartments with several people over three generations, making online learning particularly difficult, with sometimes incoherent WiFi connections.

The government said on Tuesday that mass testing for the city’s 7.4 million people would begin in March.

The city has already reported Covid-related deaths among children as young as 11 months, exacerbating concerns among families.

This week, an infected 11-month-old was forced to isolate herself at the hospital despite requests from her parents to accompany her.

“As soon as we saw the news of the child separation. I said, ‘I’m done,'” said Sofia, a mother of two.

The family plans to leave the city next week and move to Singapore in June.

“The goal of zero cases here, that’s absurd,” she said. “We can not reach zero. It plays on people’s minds – why are we staying here?”


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‘Children are crushed’ with online education as Hong Kong disrupts parents with early school breaks

Source link ‘Children are crushed’ with online education as Hong Kong disrupts parents with early school breaks

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