Online courses and video games: in Asia, remedies for closed schools

“Oh no, what am I going to do?” : when Japan closed its schools due to the coronavirus, Mayumi Iijima reacted with fright at first, wondering how she was going to be able to juggle between her work and her two children.
A dilemma shared by many parents, from Italy to Iran to South Korea: 290 million students worldwide are currently out of school due to the epidemic, according to the United Nations. .

In Japan, daycares are allowed to stay open, but Ms. Iijima’s son and daughter , Torao and Koto, aged nine and eight, respectively, are out of school this month.

Luckily, her human resources business allowed her to bring her children to her workplace in Tokyo, while her husband’s employer offered no flexibility.

“What the company can do to help is not to isolate working mothers,” said the spokesman of the company M me Iijima, Junko Sato.

While being grateful, the mother in her forties finds the situation not ideal. “I hope that classes will resume soon,” she told AFP, saying “worried” about the studies of her children.

Difficult without wifi

Han Ji-hee, a South Korean archivist and mother of two, shares his concern. In South Korea, schools are closed until March 23 and she has to rely in turn on her husband, mother or niece to babysit.

“I really hate this situation,” she told AFP. “Children are very bored, they cannot play outside or see their friends, so they have nothing to do.”

“They just watch TV and play on their phones all day,” she laments.

In Hong Kong, the closure of schools, in place since February, is currently scheduled to last until Easter.

Some teachers use online course applications. But this requires a good internet connection and some computer skills, which is not the case for many families of students of Billy Yeung, a primary school teacher.

“Some parents told me that they did not have wifi at home,” he explains. “One of them told me that he had used his entire internet plan by downloading school documents”.

Unlimited console

However, some young people in Hong Kong are enjoying the new situation, while the school system in the autonomous territory is particularly competitive.

This is the case of Leo, 14, who, instead of his usual nine lessons a day, only has to follow two video conferences of 45 minutes each each day.

“I feel like it’s easier to concentrate and I feel less stressed,” he says.

The closure of schools is not implemented in all countries. In Singapore, for example, the government objected, arguing that it would “disrupt” daily life a lot.

“Even if all the children were sent home, it would not represent a guarantee against infection,” added the Singaporean Minister of Education.

In Tokyo, closing schools does not prevent children from going out. Many neighborhoods popular with adolescents remain crowded, such as Harajuku and Shibuya, and the youngest continue to visit the playgrounds.

“My mother makes me sit all morning with her so I have no choice but to do my homework,” complains to AFP a nine-year-old Tokyo boy perched on a swing.

“But the good news is that I can play the Nintendo Switch for hours,” he lights up, adding that the limit of 45 minutes of console per day in his family has been suspended, account given the circumstances.

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