“We are trying to arrange situation from one day to another” – Parents facing challenge of looking after children following school closures

Photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl

All primary and secondary schools around the Czech Republic closed for an indefinite period on Wednesday in an attempt to contain the spread of the new coronavirus, leaving thousands of children at home. How will the measure affect their parents? And how will schools deal with the task of providing long-distance learning?

Photo: ČTK/Michal Krumphanzl
While most children rejoice at the prospect of staying at home, many Czech parents are struggling to find someone to look after them, while they are at work. Not every parent can work from home or take nursing care leave. The situation is especially difficult for low-income families and single-parents, as well as for medical workers, who are very much in demand these days.

Karin Taussig, a Prague-based doctor with two daughters, says her family is dealing with the situation as it comes:

“Sometimes, I try to arrange the schedule and go to work in the afternoon, while my husband arrives early. My kids are nine and 10, so they can be at home for some time. We don’t have any relatives here in Prague, but we have a cleaning lady who can stay with them for a while. But we are really trying to arrange the situation from one day to another.”

Although Mrs. Taussig could take nursing leave for up to nine days, she says in her case it is not really an option:

“It could be possible, but I am a GP and GPs are very much needed at the moment. I also think it wouldn’t be really fair to my colleagues. So I didn’t consider this option, although I know about it. Right now, we are trying to look for another solution.”

While parents are struggling to find someone to look after their kids, schools around the country are facing the challenge of maintaining the learning process uninterrupted. Czech-Canadian Linda Purghart teaches English at a private primary school in Prague’s Kunratice district.

“We have already started to create a sort of a protocol. The school has been closed for an indefinite amount of time, so we have to act right away. We have been in meetings these past days, brainstorming ideas and platforms that would be effective for teachers and user-friendly for our students.”

Photo: April Bryant, Pixabay / CC0
Ms. Purghart, who teaches children between the ages of 6 and 11, says she prefers online platforms, which enable her to stay in direct contact with her students and delivering a similar kind of education they are used to at school:

“We are focusing on teaching the children how to communicate verbally in English, so one of the platforms we are looking at using is Microsoft Teams. It allows me as the teacher to be on a video-call with hopefully all the students present and deliver a lesson in real time.

“It’s not going to be the exact same kind of education we can give children in the classroom, but I am sure they will come out of this with a very unique experience and so will the teachers. And perhaps we will include some more e-learning in our curriculum in the future.”