KuwaitOther NewsTop Stories

Despite pandemic impact, teachers and students remain hopeful

By Sabreen Nasser

KUWAIT: Educators continue to report lingering effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on students, a year after the government announced the end of online schooling. Classes were suspended in Kuwait for more than 18 months due to COVID-induced lockdowns and the prolonged disruption to education is still showing its effects. Several educators, parents and students told Kuwait Times that some students continue to find the transition back to in-person classes challenging.

Christiane Maalouf, a counselor at a bilingual academy, has observed a loss of social and developmental skills, as well as slowed academic growth among students after the end of online schooling. “Students lost a lot of learning and skills that they should have, let alone their emotional development. They are not where they should be,” she told Kuwait Times. “My middle-schoolers do not behave like middle-schoolers. They behave like 4th grade children at the emotional level because they lost two years,” she said. Many students are also struggling with their mental health, with increased reports of anxiety, depression, social isolation and irrational fears.

The school developed an academic intervention program for students, which led to significant improvements. They also provided counseling and organized activities that supported students’ mental health. However, Maalouf anticipates that teachers and educators will continue to see students affected by the pandemic in different ways. “We expect an improvement, but we also expect there will still be some fallout from the pandemic,” she said. “For example, today, the first day of school, I have kids who are refusing to remove their masks. They still have this fear.” She predicts things will take a few years to return to normal at schools.

Speaking to Kuwait Times, concerned parent Suzan Hasan commented on the challenges faced by her two young children. “Offline is completely different from online classes. Online affects us and our kids very much,” she said, adding that her children’s functional skills, like writing, and their social skills have been affected. Hasan decided to change her children’s school this year in the hopes of providing them with a better learning environment.

The effects of the pandemic school closures are more obvious in younger children. However, high-school students have not gone unscathed either. Laila and Yasmin said that they found the transition back to normal classes last year difficult as well. “It was hard because we’ve been online for two years. It was very stressful and hard to focus,” said Laila. “It felt like we were in a completely new environment,” added Yasmin. The girls, who are going into grade 9 this year, confessed to feeling nervous about the upcoming school year. “Even after one year, it’s still difficult.”

Rayan Kamel, an educator with over 19 years of experience, notes that the ease of the transition varied from school to school. The private school she teaches at did not opt for hybrid classes last year. Instead, in order to comply with government regulations, they reduced all class sizes so that their students could attend class in person every day. The school had also already adopted online learning tools before the pandemic struck.

This mitigated the effect of the pandemic on her high-school students, allowing them to adapt to the changing situations more easily. “The transition wasn’t hard, because students were excited to come back.” Even so, Kamel has observed a change in her high school classroom. “Students were quiet the first three months after coming back – they were not as active as before,” she told Kuwait Times. She added that the scores in their first midyear exams were also lower on an average.

Farhan Hashmi, principal of a private American school in Salmiya, said his teachers and students witnessed many positive effects from online schooling. “As with any change, there are some positives and some negatives,” he told Kuwait Times. “One of the positives that came out of it is that most of our students have become proficient in online learning tools,” he pointed out. The school’s curriculum was also modified post-pandemic based on the needs of students. “Sometimes, having a change in your normal setting allows you to see things from a different perspective. We are hopeful that what we are doing post-pandemic will be very applicable in the new reality.”

Despite all the challenges of the last two years, most teachers and students are excited for the upcoming academic year. Dina Eidan, a kindergarten supervisor at a local American school, is optimistic about her young students. “I feel that in the early kindergarten years, children are resilient. They might not understand at first, but they bounce back,” she said. At her school, the influence of online schooling was more apparent in middle- and high-schoolers than younger children. “When we came back last year, there were a lot of children feeling depressed and isolated. So we had a lot of counseling going on in school,” she said. However, this year, things have taken a turn for the better. “When I watched middle- and high-schoolers come in today, they came in with lots of positive energy, and each one had a smile on their faces,” she told Kuwait Times.


Back to top button