Learning never stops: testimonies from students and educators

04 - Quality Education

Students, teachers and parents from the UNESCO Associated Schools Network share their stories about how they are coping and continuing to learn during the Covid-19 school closures. Read their testimonies in English, French and Spanish.

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Read testimonies in French

Vivian, student, Greece

“Lately, peoples' daily life has changed rapidly, since Covid-19 started expanding around the globe. Therefore, it has been decided, that some very drastic measures should be taken for the benefit of humanity. These measures though have upset the whole population of the world.  

In our life there have been many changes. Schools and universities have been closed down and that has affected students' education. However, with the use of technology and online learning platforms, things have become much easier. In addition, all entertainment venues have also been shut down, limiting peoples' choices when going out. Moreover, the closedown of shops and department stores has affected the economy.  

Many people don't realize the danger. As a consequence, the virus expands quicker. As we can see, in neighboring countries, the cases and deaths from the virus keep increasing. This happens for 3 main reasons: first, many people did not comply with the rules and measures, second, those who belong to the "vulnerable groups" will experience more severe symptoms and third, in most countries-like ours-the healthcare system doesn't provide adequate medical support.  

Finally, considering all the above, we can conclude that this particular virus is very harmful, and therefore we need to protect for the benefit of everyone by conforming to the necessary measures, in order to avoid major losses.

All together we will be able to win the big battle against the coronavirus..!” 

Erdenechimeg, social worker, Mongolia

“If everyone in the world is healthy, then we can collectively work towards the common good. At this time of great risk, we need to be resilient, self-disciplined, responsible and caring for others. There is much potential for learning and growth if we follow the precautionary measures and foster mutual respect to overcome this force majeure. The lost time can be recovered; we just need a little patience. Every person should strive for the betterment of the whole world. 

During this time of quarantine, I am reminiscing all the good times I had with my colleagues and wishing them all the best. I am researching the "TV Lessons" and all other recommendations to improve my risk management skills and I believe good times are just around the corner.” 

Victoria, student, Greece

“We need to stay home and be cool.  We all want this virus to end and get out of our homes.  Patience!!!

Ganchimeg, English language teacher, Mongolia

“In the current situation of COVID-19 outbreak, I think the closure of schools, kindergartens and public events is a right decision for our country. The risk of the virus spreading is relatively low because the precautionary measures have been taken early on. Now the virus has spread in more than 120 countries around the world, with losses in many sectors including health, economics and education. 

However, every story has two sides. I think progress is being made in terms of e-learning. The "TV Lessons", which is being implemented by the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, allows students to continue their learning through televised classes taught by teachers using effective pedagogies. We, the teachers, are also learning pedagogies from the best teachers. 

Personally, I am working to provide my students with the necessary information, including the schedule of the "TV Lessons", video lessons and assignments through the online group on a timely basis. I am using this as an opportunity to enhance the curriculum and to develop myself by reading professional books.  

Our health is of paramount importance, which is why we need to overcome this difficult time with a positive attitude for one's own sake and for others. Although it may seem like a difficult time when you can't go out freely and do whatever you want, every opportunity is open to you and what matters is how you use them.” 

Manoty, National Coordinator for ASPnet, Zimbabwe

“It’s sad to learn that learning has been disrupted by the corona virus outbreak in some parts of the world. I thank the authorities for taking such actions to ensure the safety of learners and educators and to control the spread of the virus. In Zimbabwe, the situation is normal but messages are regularly posted in the media to inform members of public on the spread of the virus and precautionary measures to be taken. We are in solidarity with those affected and wish them all safe until normal learning resumes.” 

Paul, teacher, Kenya

“It's clear too that schoolchildren are hard hit by the current situation of lockdown or near lockdown in many countries due to the Covid-19 pandemic. It hurts to see children miss the dear opportunity to get education. Teachers are also saddened to see their learners stay out of school, scared and uncertain of when to resume classes. As a teacher, I encourage learners worldwide to take heart and have hope that we shall overcome. I am taking all necessary steps to educate learners and general populace on measures to take in order to protect themselves from this deadly virus. I have turned to social media and other online platforms to create awareness on the pandemic. 

Teachers all over the world have an obligation to educate not only their learners but the general populace on the dangers of the pandemic and the measures to take. 

As teachers we encourage our people to remain at home, minimize movements and maintain social distance. We stand in solidarity with our learners, parents, stakeholders in education and the entire world as we fight this pandemic. We acknowledge the heroic deeds of our doctors and all caretakers for the sacrifices they have had to make in efforts to ensure everyone’s safety. We pray to God that, even as we continue to use science to combat this pandemic, He may continue to guide us and protect us. Let the entire world stand strong and united against this pandemic.” 

Faten, high school director, Iraq

“The spread of coronavirus has led  to the loss of a school year  and the loss of student's efforts. It is imperative that we all play our roles in order to secure education for our students remotely by opening online classes such as Telegram channels and Google classroom for each lesson under the supervision of the school administration to ensure the continuity of education.”

Marietta, student, Greece

“What's happening these days is not easy at all, especially because my parents work at the Military Hospital. Every day almost 5 to 10 new cases are coming to take the coronavirus test and see if they are infected by the virus. Because of that, me, my parents and my siblings are kind of exposed to the covid-19. Although the circumstances right now are not the best, we are not afraid as we all believe that this is happening for a certain reason that we still don't know. Moreover, these days as the schools are closed, me and my siblings are spending our free time together by doing a lot of creative things such as painting. We also play board games, videogames and watching movies. Except that, we are having online courses so we can study from home as we cannot go to school.” 

Aseel, parent of high school student, Iraq

“The spread of coronavirus has led to the loss of a school year and the loss of student's efforts. It is imperative that we all play our roles in order to secure education for our students remotely by opening online classes such as Telegram channels and Google classroom for each lesson under the supervision of the school administration to ensure the continuity of education.” 

Teeba, 14, Baghdad, Iraq

“Our school has been closed, but our teacher created a channel on the Telegram app to send our homework and explain the lessons to us. It’s a good alternative, but I really miss going to school, our teachers and my friends. It is not the same experience as being in the classroom and getting your lessons in person. I’m now studying at home and it’s not hard for my parents to help with homework. It’s not easy.”  

Ankhtuya, teacher, Mongolia

“For me, I am collaborating with our Mongolian language teacher to give online assignments on the subject to my students. However, the rate of students reading the announcements and information online and responding is insufficient. Only 1/3 of the class is completing and submitting their homework. My students are in the 12th grade, so they are extremely worried about taking the General Entrance Exam. I miss my students a lot and my students have also expressed their desire to return to school. Furthermore, parents have expressed their concerns about their children's learning as they feel that their children aren't learning sufficiently at home.”   

Marieta, teacher, Spain

“Our is small school of less than 500 students is located in a semi-rural area of the north of Spain, so we count ourselves lucky to enjoy the benefits of living in a rural and coastal area but also the advantages of the proximity of a big city. Most of our students enjoy the love and care of their families, with no major issues than focusing on their education. The size and ethos of our school also facilitate a personal contact between staff and students, so teachers know well their student's backgrounds, strengths and weaknesses. Thanks to all the features mentioned above, the impact of the quarantine has not been devastating to our students yet. It will eventually have an impact on the health of their elders and the income of the parents, but so far, we do not think the little ones are aware of the magnitude of the problem. We have an extremely dedicated staff, who are working from home daily, and who are creating a collaborative virtual classroom which you can access through this link http://eduardopondal.com/aula-virtual/. We are using blogs and other tools, but we are asking parents for feedback, to know to which extent they have access to technology and internet connection at home. In those cases, we are communicating through all possible means. So, from our small privileged part of the world we would like to share all our teaching resources, but also, all the hope we are getting from our student's creations.” 

Manoty, National Coordinator for ASPnet, Zimbabwe

“It’s sad to learn that learning has been disrupted by the corona virus outbreak in some parts of the world. I thank the authorities for taking such actions to ensure the safety of learners and educators and to control the spread of the virus. In Zimbabwe, the situation is normal but messages are regularly posted in the media to inform members of public on the spread of the virus and precautionary measures to be taken. We are in solidarity with those affected and wish them all safe until normal learning resumes.” 

Kaspar, student, Estonia

“My name is Kaspar and I do cross-country skiing. This winter there was not very much snow in Estonia.  I usually ski about 180 hours in winter, but this time I only had 70 hours on snow and 50 of those were in training camps.  As it is impossible to go to training camps because the world being in lockdown due to COVID-19, I have to train alone. When I woke up on 1 April and saw the snow, I decided to build a ski track for myself. It took about an hour to get it done. It was 75 meters long and 50 cm wide. I skied for 2 hours and 234 laps there. Sadly, I had to stop then, because the snow melted too fast. Now I have to be creative and find new, alternative ways to continue my trainings.  My message to you: Never lose hope, be strong and take care of yourself. We’ll defeat the virus together.” 

Mireia, student, Estonia

“It is a very hard time for all of us. We need to stay positive and hope for the best. You need to remember that you are not alone. We are in this together. It is difficult sometimes, but we will get through this.” 

Reili, student, Estonia

“These are quite miserable times but the only thing we can do is hope that this epidemic will be over soon. Nobody is alone in this because we are all going through the same situation and the only thing we can do is support each other through technology and make people feel that we are all in this together.”  

Maarja, student, Estonia

“In a difficult time like the present, it is particularly important that we all take care of each other. At the moment we can help each other by staying at and only going out when it is absolutely necessary. 
If everybody stayed home, the risk of the corona virus spreading would be much lower and it would end faster. I know it’s hard to stay home from day to day, but the more people stick to it, the sooner we can return to our normal lives. So please, stay home.  
Take your time to sit back and relax, spend time with your family, watch your favourite TV show or take up a new hobby. Now everybody has time to do things they usually don’t have time to do, for example cleaning your house or meditating. 
Studying at home may be a little difficult, but teachers always try to help when they can. at home, you can make your own schedule when and what you study, which makes it much easier. School is also very helpful towards these students who don’t have a computer or internet access, which is the right thing to do. We all hope this will end soon, so to help with this, please stay home.” 

Chanthaphone, secondary school director, Lao (PDR)

“When the school is closed we would lose the time for teaching and learning, students could not complete the course. Teachers and students have can no onger see other other.  We miss our school, colleagues and students. Students can take the textbook to study at home and also communicate with other by mobile phone to exchange the lessons. If the school is not closed, we felt unsafe because there are a lot of students in our school. We are afraid that they might get an infection by COVID-19 during the school day. Fortunately, the Lao government had issued an order to close the school.  Everyone stays at home, communicates to friends by mobile phone and internet, follows and get the information from the radio, newspapers, TV, Facebook.” 

Khankeo, teacher, Lao (PDR)

“This virus is very easy to spread to other people and it does not show out the symptom immediately. All of the teachers are worried about everyone especially the students because most of them come from rural areas. They still do not understand this problem. At the moment that our school is closed. I miss my school and students a lot because I teach the graduate class. I am afraid that my class wil fall behind. While I stay at home, I prepare the lesson plans as well as teach my children at home. Sometimes, I talk to the teachers at school about the problem and also talk to the students too through the phone. For the students, I asked them about the lessons and their family’s news. I want to know about their activities because if something happened in their family that we can help I would love to help them.” 

Pulisam 17 year-old, Lao (PDR)

“When the school is closed to avoid COVID-19 I think it is quite a long period for me or many people to stay at home. I miss my school, I want to go to back and meet my friends and teachers and I wish this crisis could pass rapidly. From a happy time in school, now it is very quiet because everybody is fear of COVID-19. They keep themselves at home. Even though I do not go to school, I do a lot of things with my younger brother at home such as gardening, studying and when I feel bored I play a game and chat with friends through online. If the school did not close, I want to share what I have known about COVID-19 to my friends and others.”   

Dingfang Guo, Psychology Teacher from Hubei No.1 Affiliated School of Central China Normal University, Wuhan City, Hubei Province

How has COVID-19 outbreak changed your work?

I am a psychology teacher and I teach Grade 8 and 9. My school has been going online for over two months. During this period, I deliver two major lectures online every week, through both live streaming and recorded lessons. My lectures also attracted some teachers and parents, which is different from the past when I delivered teaching only to students in class.

I had to learn a lot of new skills to make best use of the different online learning platforms. To prepare each lecture, I would need three days of preparation, e.g. finding a lot of reference materials from various sources and recording my own teaching using the smart phone.

I feel I am working all the time. Apart from preparing and delivering online teaching, I receive many questions from students, which I need to respond to on an individual basis. I also receive requests for help from parents, some of whom would listen to my lecture together with their children. Understandably there are lots of child-parent conflicts during this special period. I am happy that I can be of help to them.

A lot more discussions about lesson planning are happening online among my peer teachers. We sometimes also visit each other’s online teaching sessions. I feel that I gained more understanding about colleagues, and they also have got to know more about me. As a psychology teacher who teach multiple classes, so I need to coordinate with all the class head teachers. We added each other to our circle of friends on social media, which brought us much closer than before. This kind of communication during this special period goes beyond work-level and builds solidarity. I think the improved communication among teachers will have a lasting impact.

How do you feel during these challenging times?

Wuhan is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak. We have every reason to panic. But in fact, I feel that once people have accepted the fact, they become calm instead, and definitely more united. Many people volunteered to help others, by offering different services they are capable of, e.g. psychological support, cutting hair, purchasing daily necessities, etc.. I am grateful for their selfless support.

How has this situation impacted on your health and wellbeing?

My family members are all fine. Like many people, during this period I adopted the habit of physical exercise and paid attention to nutrition, which can strengthen immune system. I have no problem getting daily necessities, with the help of community volunteers.

Our school schedules physical exercises and eye exercise in the daily distance learning program for students. All students and teachers are also required to report on their health status on a daily basis.

What are the most challenging aspects of social distancing?

As a teacher, the most challenging aspect of social distancing is that I cannot physically see my students. I know that some students cannot help feeling certain level of anxiety due to the lack of direct interaction with peers. As a psychology teacher, I care for their mental health. So I try to be a role model for my students with my calmness and positiveness in all my communication and interaction with them. In calmness and positivity lies strength, which I hope both the parents and students could sense from me.

What uses of ICT and other means have been most helpful?

Our local education bureau recommends to schools some popular online teaching platforms, which I made best use of. I have used different types of tools and platforms for my teaching, such as Zoom, QQ, Dingding, etc., depending on different purposes. No single tool or platform can satisfy all needs, but a user can use a combination of them. I found QQ very convenient to facilitate discussion among students who can also pose questions to me individually, and I can then give individualized advices and recommend reference materials. The biggest academic database in China, CNKI, now offers free access, which is another great help.

What health and wellbeing tips would you give others in a similar situation?

It is a challenging time, but we shall take it positively. Firstly, we need to follow the basic hygiene and quarantine rules to keep ourselves and our families safe and healthy.  A teacher can use this time to recharge and learn new skills, which will be useful in the future. Apart from supporting students’ learning, a teacher can also be a great moral and psychological support to students and parents.

Zhen LIU, Grade 11 student from Beijing Dongsheng Middle School

How has COVID-19 outbreak changed your work?

The COVID-19 outbreak took place during our school holiday, so there was not much impact initially. But once the new school term started and the school closure was announced, we switched to online learning. Because of this change, I no longer needed to commute between home and school, which saved me some time. I feel I have more time for myself, which enabled me to learn more things on my own and have more time to relax.

How do you feel during these challenging times?

During this period, our outdoor activities and shopping, etc. have been very limited and I couldn’t help having some fear about the uncertain situation. But with more understanding about the virus I started to have less anxiety. Our school has provided timely information and monitors our health status. The local community and government has taken very practical measures. People are helping each other and making contributions to ending the epidemic. I was touched many times by what I have seen.

How has this situation impacted on your health and wellbeing?

I personally am not affected by the situation. During the school closure period, I have kept a balanced diet and have got used to exercising at home. Our school also schedules online physical education and psychology class, to help keep us physically and mentally well. Certainly, I have no opportunities to meet with friends and relatives but have been keeping in touch with them through phone calls and social media. I missed playing sports and having fun together with my friends, but I have also enjoyed reading more books and watching movies.

What are the most challenging aspects of social distancing?

The first challenge is regarding online learning. With fewer interactions than the normal offline classroom teaching, I sometimes cannot help drifting away, and I definitely need more self-discipline. The second challenge is regarding physical exercise and entertainment. But as I said, I have developed some new interests in this period to keep myself busy and energized.

What uses of ICT and other means have been most helpful?

I have made use of online learning and social media APPs and platforms. I also frequently check on virtual maps that show the changing epidemic situations.

What health and wellbeing tips would you give others in a similar situation?

Although the pandemic is still going on, I think people can still find ways to keep themselves active. With appropriate protection, you could still take a walk outside.

Meanwhile, it is the best time to make use of the internet to keep connected with friends and relatives and to continue learning. There are abundant learning resources out there. Of course, from time to time, you can also watch some favorite videos and play your favorite games. Certainly, you shall strike a balance between study and play, and get the most out of this special period and allow yourself to grow.