By Emma Marsden 

As Boris Johnson announced the third nationwide lockdown on 6 January and with no scheduled end-date in sight, parents, teachers, and not forgetting the children themselves, were faced with the daunting prospect of home-schooling yet again.

However, despite schools being officially closed and open only to vulnerable children and those of key workers, attendance is at up to 50 percent in some primary schools. This is in marked contrast to the lockdown in March last year when there were on average 10 students per class.

The extra numbers means an extra challenge to the schools and teachers who need to balance teaching in class with home-schooling for other schoolchildren and possibly their own. 

Yet on some forums and school pages, there has been criticism directed at the teaching staff and methods and not all parents are happy.

In response, one parent, from Batley, posted her thoughts about it online. She said:

“I have to say something as a close friend of a teacher. Some of you parents are extremely selfish in what you are expecting from them.

“They have been thrown in the deep end just like you… They are having to teach at school, at home they are still working to get work out to students as well as plan what they need to do for their own children and in some cases take their OWN children into school with them. They are having to deal with irate parents who feel the world owes them and forget we are in this TOGETHER…  

“Parents need to understand teachers are NOT your babysitters. If you can keep them at home then you should, no matter how hard it is, they are YOUR children.”

These comments struck a chord with other parents and lead to an interesting debate online.

One parent who shares a similar perspective is Sarah Hussain from Huddersfield. Sarah is an educator, PhD student and published author. She knows all about balancing learning and motherhood, having completed a BA Honours Arts of Literature degree with the Open University, whilst being pregnant with her son, now 13 and a PGCE whilst expecting her daughter, now 9.

Sarah Hussain from Huddersfield is an educator, PhD student and published author.

Sarah said: “As the pandemic began, I was at the computer screen until late, creating screencasts and sessions and it was difficult to do that and monitor my own children. I feel we should be much more appreciative of all the work teachers are doing. I don’t think people comprehend how much has gone into changing from classroom based to online.”

She continued: “I understand not everyone is a trained teacher and some people just need a bit of extra help from the schools.”

Sarah was pleased at the way her children’s school adapted to the change. She said:

“We got the announcement at 8pm that primary schools had to close down and I can’t believe how quickly my daughter’s school prepared online resources to meet her needs. The teachers have been incredible throughout this pandemic and should be applauded.”

She says that she has a passion for teaching and promoting tolerance. She won the Individualised Learning Award last year, up against many other nominees from across the country, in addition to winning the ‘Most Supportive Teacher’ award. 

Sarah said: “Being an educator means a lot to me as you have the power to influence minds in a positive way.”

As well as being a proud wife and mother, Sarah is very proud of her South Asian ancestry.  Her stylish, brightly coloured clothes and matching headscarves reflect this. She said: “I really love being a mummy. Family means a lot to me and I am passionate about my heritage.  I am proud of my culture and it is important for me to preserve the connection to my roots.”

Sarah ultimately decided to break from teaching to focus on home-schooling and her PhD. Her current research is looking at ecological degradation in the Himalayan region from a postcolonial ecofeminist perspective.

She said: “I am aiming to use my research to amplify women’s knowledge and voices that have been lost through Western patriarchy. I hope to challenge negative representations of South Asian women by drawing attention to their non-violent activism. “

She continued: “It’s important to me to see positive representations of South Asian women. My research aims to amplify the voices of the women who have been erased from history.”

Whilst Sarah is passionate about her roots, her work appeals to people from all backgrounds and often links stories and characters from South Asian or Middle Eastern backgrounds to the wider community. Her published works with Pegasus Publishers include Escaped From Syria (2014), a story of a girl who lost her family in a chemical weapons attack in Damascus. 

Sarah Hussain’s collection of short stories, ‘ Sit up, Stand Up, Speak Up: An Emotional Short Story Collection’, is available at http://www.sarah-hussain.pegasuspublishers.com/.

Also, a collection of short stories called Sit up, Stand Up, Speak Up: An Emotional Short Story Collection (2017), an emotive assortment of fictional stories.

Sarah said about the collection:  “It invites you to explore your ideas and challenge your mind.  Are you able to capture a thought and challenge it? We grow up with a set of beliefs and values, influenced by the society we grow up in. We have been gifted with a mind, which can be utilised and fuelled by positive attitudes or by narrow minded assumptions accepted in the first instance.

“Don’t accept the first thought that crosses your mind just because you are told to. Explore it, challenge it, debate it and accept what you know is right in your heart and soul.”

Since writing this collection, Sarah has gained valuable training and education as a writer at The University of Huddersfield.

She hopes her work will continue to educate and inspire just as, she feels, the teachers are trying their hardest to do right now, in the middle of a pandemic. 

 

Links to Sarah’s work can be found here

http://www.sarah-hussain.pegasuspublishers.com/

 

Tips on home-schooling can be found here

https://www.asiansunday.co.uk/10-tips-on-how-to-effectively-home-school/