Chances of going back to the good old normal days anytime soon are a remote possibility
Shununa Salim Alhabsi
Assistant director general for special education and continuous education
Ministry of education (OMAN)
It is only when something is taken away from us that we realise its worth. Not that I did not realise its value, but, when we are forced to put a full stop to indulging in some of the daily little enjoyable life habits, then our hearts may make a little flutter of protest.
And when it is a bit more than the tiny little things that we are forced to sacrifice, our hearts will further protest. But that is all.
Disruption is the name of the game
I live in Muscat and like any other person on Planet Earth I am also affected by the changes that this deadly Corona virus, the COVID-19, has brought into our lives. Disruption is the name of the game for COVID-19. It knows how to upset people’s lives.
Miss the little things
If you ask me, I miss my much-deserved vacation, my lovely family gatherings, the fun-filled picnics; those trips to the local coffee shop with a friend or two, a bit of shopping as well as window shopping.
I miss the flower shop from where I used purchase those lovely flowers that used to bring colour and an extra fragrance to mine and so many people’s lives!
All of these may suddenly be seen as unwanted luxuries today, but they used to do their bit to restore the balance in our lives; helped us relax and gave us all that gentle push to move forward each day.
Lockdown measures reduced virus cases
But today in the name of a tiny virus, we have to give all that up. Yet, we are not the type to complain or make a noise about it. For, like all in Oman, I am also glad that we put a stop to all these activities and implemented social distancing and adhered to the lockdown measures. Thankfully for that we are all safe.
In fact, it is because we followed the lockdown measures properly that our country is in a far better scenario than many. These measures have helped reduce the number of Corona virus cases in Oman. And for that we should commend the authority concerned for their prompt and effective measures.
They deserve a worthy round of applause!
Spend time networking
Since I am now unable to indulge in my pre-COVID habits, I quickly took stock of the things I could do from home and I quickly re-organised my ‘homestay’ with my beloved mother. This is where I should say that we are blessed with the Internet. Technology is a great boon and it has helped me network with friends, both inside and outside Oman.
I spend most of my time networking using the different means of social media and also surfing on the net to check on the latest in fashion design and style.
Interestingly, I have also participated in some professional events through social media, such as Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom.
I have been communicating with my colleagues and friends in England, the United States of America, Germany, India, Jordan, Kuwait and Tunis, etc and also exchanged views on how our lives have changed during this corona virus ‘season’. So, I must say that I have been busy networking.
All affected by pandemic
Professionally, we have all been affected by this pandemic, whether that means we now have to work from home or we have to work on the frontlines. I am a policymaker, working at the ministry of education as an assistant director general for special education and continuous education. I am also an advocate for child rights and I had received an award on “Strength and Leadership on Child Rights” from the United Nations Children Funds in 2019.
Since I have been very active before the virus hit us, I would say that it has indeed affected our work: for schools and classes have been suspended. Students are at home and the ministry of education is now supporting their education through ‘e’ and distance learning methods. So now all of us are working remotely, through different means of communication and networking. In addition, I had to work on shift bases to support the education system during this COVID–19.
‘Attended’ key functions virtually
However, I have been able to keep myself very active on my work mission too: I am proud to reveal that I had participated and attended some key functions via various online communication platforms. Through them I was able to:
Present a paper in the “seminar to protect children’s rights in the Corona pandemic period (COVID-19)” in this month (June) held in Muscat
Call on mental health psycho-social support for children and social workers during COVID–19 in May with the UNICEF and other institutions from Jordan
Participate in the Regional Education Forum by UNESCO, UNICEF and the World Bank in May, held in Beirut.
Top psychosocial interventions
Anything new, which is suddenly forced on us, will take some time for us to digest. Similarly, the lockdown, which is most certainly a necessity, could cause stress and anxiety amongst children as well as their families.
And this necessitates state-of-the-art psychosocial interventions through different channels. And that has been going on.
Academic year ended for all levels
The Supreme Committee, in charge of examining the mechanism of dealing with developments resulting from the spread of the Corona virus, decided in May this year that ministry of education should end the academic year for all educational levels in the Omani school system.
However the second semester will be continued via online and distance learning methods and all students enrolled in grades 1 to 11 will be raised to the higher grades for the next academic year 2021/2020, while statistical treatments will be employed for students of grade 12.
We expect that there will be an increase in blended learning infrastructure, which will include two learning settings: e-learning and physical class rooms settings.
Furthermore, ‘e’ and distance learning will be enhanced via:
Digital library project to be a virtual learning resource center for students, teachers, and employees
Electronic preparation platform for lessons
Let’s prepare to face future challenges too
Now, with the same zeal and energy that we are facing the current challenges posed by the Corona virus, we must also be ready to confront various future challenges that the COVID-19 will bring.
Unfortunately, our lifestyle is not likely to revert back to ‘NORMAL’ in the fall!
We have to consider many precautionary measures against the COVID–19, be it at home, in schools, at workplaces, and during travel as well. We have to accommodate and adjust ourselves to this new situation with flexibility and agility. And we will!
Our duty to help others
When a crisis comes into our lives, we may forget everything and would run to save our lives and the lives of our dear ones. That is nothing unusual and it has to happen because unless we take care of ourselves, we will not be able to take of others. But, once we have ensured our safety, it is our duty to help others in distress.
Continue to support children’s rights
From my part, as an advocate on child rights and an educator, I have vowed to continue to support the rights of children all along: their rights to full development, their rights to protection, their rights to education, their rights to a healthy life, their rights to joy and leisure, including the rights for children with disabilities.
By developing child friendly e-spaces for children and propagating awareness messages on the social media on COVID–19 we will be able to support their educational process. I am also ready to be a volunteer in the community to support families and the environment on the health aspects related to COVID-19.
(*) Shununa Al Habsi is also:
* Member of the executive committee for the start of the school year 2020/2021 in the light of developments posed by the Corona virus (COVID-19)
* Member of the National Programme Management Committee between the Government of Oman and the UNICEF
* Member of the National Committee on Child Rights