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Schooling the kids in pandemic times: Many Bonn parents’ nerves on edge

Schooling the kids in pandemic times : Many Bonn parents’ nerves on edge

Since Monday, the schools offer only emergency care. Basically, the children are supposed to learn at home, from a distance. In Bonn, the number of children who still came to school remained manageable. But many parents feel pressured.

School in the Corona crisis means many parents’ nerves are on edge. Ingobert Wenningmann is a senior physician at the university hospital, and his wife is also a doctor in Koblenz. "We have no other choice, our son has to go to emergency care." When Wenningmann learned via an e-mail from the school to all parents that his son would not be able to fully participate in distance learning at the Erich-Kästner Elementary School in Kessenich because the wifi network was not sufficient, his jaw nearly dropped. "Then I'll just get a router for the school myself," the doctor decided.

The school's administration later agreed, Principal Kißgen tells the GA. The problem at the Erich-Kästner-Schule: one of the municipal containers with 16 end devices was broken and had to be returned to the manufacturer. "We are of course pleased that we have now been helped on the part of the father," she says. Finally, 39 of the total 215 students of the elementary school showed up for emergency care on Monday, Kißgen reports further. They were all able to participate in distance learning thanks to the privately procured router. "And if the amount of data is not enough, I'm happy to rebook," says Wenningmann.

Actually, the family man could now be satisfied. But he isn't. "There was never any discussion from the school as to whether anyone had any ideas about how to provide reasonable wifi for the children," he criticises. Rather, he says, he has the impression that the announcement in the school's e-mail was intended to discourage parents from sending their children to school. "It is embarrassing for the city and the state that there is an elementary school in Bonn without reasonable wifi, but it is also regrettable that people are accepting it as it is."

Emergency care with almost 40 children found at its limits

Wenningmann knows of a single mother who works in a supermarket. She doesn't dare send her child to school, even though she depends on care, he complains. Kißgen defends himself: "All of us here at the school have a lot to organize. I think we are now well positioned. We're also very fortunate to have the OGS staff helping us take care of the kids right from the morning." The emergency care, however, has nearly reached its limit with almost 40 children, he said.

Other parents also feel pressured by the school's email to care for children at home and send them to school only in "extreme emergencies." "I'm caught in the middle," says one father. He does not want to be quoted by name because he works in public administration and is worried that critical comments could be detrimental to him. He and his wife work full-time. At home, two children - one daycare and one school-age child - need to be cared for. "You do that sometimes when you're on a conference call yourself in the home office, the school child is sitting in front of the laptop in a video meeting with the class, and the younger sibling is in the bathroom - shouting out loud 'done.'" But he dare not send the children to emergency care. He sees the high infection rates, plus the social pressure on parents to leave children at home, he said. "We'll see how long we can keep this up."

OGS staff already jump in to help with care in the morning

Birgit Klippel also finds this is a dilemma. The head of Rochus Elementary School in Duisdorf has 24 children in emergency care on Monday. She, too, is glad that the OGS employees are already helping out with care in the morning. Except for one teacher, the other colleagues are at home teaching. The pedagogue makes no secret of what she thinks of learning at a distance: "The whole thing is a disaster for the children." Children have a right to education, she says, and this basic right can really only be realized in school. "We have families where the parents can't read and write. What are these children supposed to do at home?" She knows that no one solution can be right at the moment. "If the state could finally offer a uniform tool for video conferencing for all schools, that would be something.“

The Bernhard School in Auerberg counts 15 of 304 children in emergency care on Monday. However, there are not many families at the elementary school where both parents work full time, they said. It was expected that in the course of the week, some more children would be added. At the Karlschule in Bonn-Nord, twelve of 170 children are in school. Among them are refugee children. "These are children who live in very cramped living conditions and urgently need our support," says principal Tobias Hillebrand. In the meantime, the OGS sponsor, the Sport- und Schwimmfreunde Bonn (Bonn Sports and Swimming Friends), has signaled that it will help look after the children in the mornings. "I wouldn't be able to manage that in the long term with teachers alone." At the Münsterschule in Bonn's city center, the children are cared for by OGS staff from morning on. "This means my teachers can concentrate fully on distance learning," says school principal Klauspeter Wollenweber happily. 20 of the 200 students showed up. However, classes at the Münsterschule do not start until Wednesday. "Only then can we also foresee how many children will end up in care."

(Original text: Lisa Inhoffen / Translation: Mareike Graepel)