Puspita’s WhatsApp status currently has a picture of her son, studying in the second grade, with his drawing project, and a video of her daughter reciting the Quran. Both her kids attend a private Islamic elementary school that requires daily recitation from students.
"Their teachers are allowing parents to report the kids' activity for school practice tasks through either WhatsApp status or personal messages. It is the point through which I can keep in touch with the teachers during this period," said Puspita, whose domicile is Bekasi, a neighboring city of Jakarta.
Since Indonesia confirmed its first two COVID-19 cases on March 2, the government has been urging people to remain at home to avoid further community transmission. As part of President Joko Widodo’s "work from home, study from home, perform prayer at home” policy, many schools, workplaces, and places of worships remain shut.
The school where Puspita's children study implemented a learning from home guidance for students from March 16 to 31, and has extended it to April 27. A further extension is possible.
Since the second week of April, the school has started using Google Classroom, a virtual classroom where teachers can give assignments to students, which need to be completed within a limited period of time.
"It has been a month and I am doing well, the children are all good. I accompany them while they are reading theory in a book, doing assignments, or writing a summary," Puspita noted.
She added that while she is letting her daughter, who is in the fifth grade, to learn by herself, she remains her son’s full-time "home-school teacher".
Puspita has no complaints about the scheme of study, but said she find the family’s expense on internet data has grown as the children need to browse information and pictures online more often as they can no longer approach their teachers for information directly, unlike school.
"Also, questions on how my children's knowledge is being tested and scored, when it (assignments) is not purely their own work, sometimes pop up in my mind. I feel a bit worried whether they really understand the subjects or not," she admitted.
Maria Skolastika, who teaches English to grade one students at a private school in Jakarta, said student evaluation has been a point of much debate — there has been much discussion over how would teachers give scores when they are not one hundred percent sure what processes students are following to get tasks done, given there is no teacher supervision.
"Since we are in the middle of this situation, we, as teachers, must be wise in scoring the kids' work," Skolastika noted, adding that she would consider her students' development in class and compare it with the tasks they submit during the study-from-home guidance.
She is working from home, making summaries for class students and then giving them exam questions. Parents are submitting their kid's work on Skolastika's personal WhatsApp account or email.
Skolastika raises another concern: remote learning requires technologies and internet access, which has affected participation from some students from low income families.
And this, according to Skolastika, is not only a complication for parents, but also teachers, as she has to innovate to find the best method for giving assignments so they are not burdensome to anyone.
"For some who are in a difficult economic situation, I make the assignment easy. They do not have to submit the work to me immediately, but are required to work on it and submit it later, after the school returns to normal," she explained.
Skolastika said she misses meeting her students the most as she often derives comfort from their adorable behavior in class.
It's different in a remote area
A teacher with Indonesia Mengajar, Basa Nova Siregar, agrees that with schools closed, any chance and time for students to play with their pals, or learn with their teachers has vanished.
"Last week, I bumped into one of my students and asked how he was doing while staying home. ‘Nothing happens, Ma'am, it's boring,’ he answered," Basa, as she is usually called, said.
She is a volunteer at a public school in SDN Ledeke 2, situated in Raijua Island of Sabu Raijua District, East Nusa Tenggara Province. It is a remote island spanning 36 square kilometers, located at a distance of around 228 kilometers from Kupang, the provincial capital.
Due to concerns over COVID-19 and as a precautionary measure, the local government issued a “study from home” regulation in the area, which, as of today has not reported a single case. The regulation was issued for March 20 to April 6 and then extended from April 8 to 22. The guidance has been further extended to May 30.
Normally, according to Basa, schools in the area often do not work well as teachers rarely come to work. The situation has worsened during the pandemic, with students no longer studying from home since teachers are doing nothing for them.
"They gave students assignments only once, on March 20," Basa noted.
"There are guidelines the local government issued for teachers to conduct teaching-learning processes remotely, (which have been) included in the governor's instructions, yet they (teachers) are doing nothing,” she complained.
It is getting more difficult as students do not have any access to internet, or even electricity to turn on the television. In such a situation, online learning is merely wishful thinking, she added.
“But, in the near future, I and some other volunteers here will do something to make sure our students maintain their study at home (schedule). For instance, visiting each one of them, writing letters (to students) and asking them to do so, and sending them to a distant friend," she promised.
Related news: Finding a balance while staying at home with toddlers
Related news: Students, universities cope with challenges as classes move online