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The long game of COVID recovery

By 'Alapasita Teu December 14, 2021

Without a doubt, disruptions from COVID-19 lockdowns have affected us all. In all the coverage around “the new normal” and “hybrid work environments,” much of this impact has been overlooked. Our education sector, for example, has rarely featured. Our schools and children have weathered seismic shifts in their learning environment. Remote learning amid digital poverty and the impact of post-COVID learning are two of them. If tamariki are our future, we need to be concerned about the impact of COVID-19 on children’s learning and education.

Educators are more exhausted than last year, and regions like Auckland have experienced more disruptions, which affect the well-being and engagement of teachers and learners.

The lingering effects of COVID-19 disruptions on our compulsory schooling sector are alarming. The results of the latest Education Review Office survey on teachers and principals underscore the growing impact of COVID-19 on learning, school teachers and students. The government has raised no alarm, neither have the media nor the Ministry of Education.

Educators are more exhausted than last year, and regions like Auckland have experienced more disruptions, which affect the well-being and engagement of teachers and learners. Teachers highlighted growing concerns about students’ social behaviour. They worried about having to manage anxieties from students, families, and communities around returning to school. Principals are concerned about unmanageable workloads, particularly among smaller and rural schools. Workforce challenges were clear in lower-decile schools, with secondary schools struggling to fill vacancies.

Before the pandemic, our education sector was full of challenges. We must ask, “What will become of education in New Zealand and of our education workforce?”

Before the pandemic, our education sector was full of challenges. These issues included; physical infrastructure problems, failing literacy and numeracy levels, and a declining workforce. All these factors, combined with learning in a COVID-19 era, and post-lockdown disruptions lead us to ask, “What will become of education in New Zealand and of our education workforce?”

Educators have been adaptive and innovative in response to COVID-19. Hybrid learning environments, combining remote and in-classroom learning, have increased despite the inequities in resources across regions and deciles. Educators have continued to meet the needs of learners, whanau, and communities amidst the chaos.

“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela.

Despite this, growing fears around low job satisfaction, and increasing burnout among teachers, need attention and priority. There is a saying, “It is better, and more useful, to meet a problem in time than to seek a remedy after the damage is done.” Aspects of the government’s response have embodied this by drawing attention to the importance of preventative public health measures. Prevention is a long-term game, it is essential in post-COVID recovery and future planning for our education sector. Addressing the lingering effects of the pandemic and resulting disruptions todaysafeguards our children’s future.

This prevention requires addressing burnout challenges facing our teachers today. It calls for creative solutions to support the shift to hybrid learning environments, leaving no one behind. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” Education is a taonga, a leveller in many societies, and a child’s passport to obtaining opportunities, new horizons, and a future. We must continue to ensure this taonga is passed on to future generations by caring for it today.

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