Special Report

Shutdown: The Coronavirus

Overburdened mothers in Pakistan are relieved as schools reopens

Jawad Kazim gets distracted while attending online classes. Photo by Noorulain Kazim

In Karachi, Pakistan, mothers of primary school kids have been juggling  piles of household chores, expectations of the family members, and the extremely demanding online classes of their children. For most mothers, the reopening of schools this month calls for a celebration a sigh of relief. 

“I am happy that schools are finally reopening and things are starting to get back to normal,” said Noorulain Kazim, a mother of two. 

The most challenging aspect for many has been keeping kids disciplined which schools help with and keeping them focused on school work. .

Noorulain Kazim, 31, said that her kids, Jawad and Maleeka who go to Beaconhouse School, do not go to bed on time and get distracted easily. Jawad starts playing video games on his tablet or switches on the TV to watch cricket, while Maleeka turns the video off on Zoom and goes back to sleep. 

“In this episode, the person who is the most burdened and traumatized is the mother,” said Kazim.

Without domestic help, a mother finds herself overwhelmed with household work and expectations of the school. Not only does she have to explain the concepts to the kids again, but also has to keep track of their deadlines, and upload assignments on Google Classroom. Connectivity issues and frequent power breakdowns have added to the misery.

Unum Shafiq, a mother of a 5- year- old preschooler, believes that online classes do not help at all and her son’s comprehension levels have significantly dropped. For her, school is about the wholesome learning experience in a facilitated environment.   

“My kid in kindergarten has classes that go on for three and a half hours but he hardly retains anything,” she said. “When he goes to school, the physical presence of the teacher makes a lot of difference. Now he stares at the screen where the letters of the alphabet are on display and can only hear his teacher’s voice, which is a big disconnect.”  

After school hours for Unum are particularly tiring and it is very difficult for her to keep her kid busy. 

“On regular days, my son comes back from school exhausted,” she said. “After playing a little, doing his homework, and his Qura’an classes, he is drained and falls asleep.” 

Umum lives in a joint family and her husband and father-in-law have been very supportive and involved throughout, but she said that her sister and some of her friends do not enjoy that type of support.

Gardening as an extracurricular activity at school has kept Anaya Abbas engaged in the last few months. Photo by Midhat Abbas

For Midhat Abbas, a mother of two girls, Alizey, 9,  and Anaya,7,  who go to Dawood Public School, the last few months have been really hectic too. The girls start their day in front of their screens at 8:30 a.m. School ends at 2 p.m., with a 30-minute break in between. Extra curricular activities like gardening and cooking classes have added a little life to this monotonous routine, but have stretched the mothers, who support these activities  further, leaving them no time for themselves. 

“Before COVID, us mothers would go for breakfast once the kids went to school,” said Abbas. “Since the pandemic, we have met over Zoom once. We hardly ever get time for other activities. I have started feeling very depressed due to this.” 

For some families though, mental health and depression are privileged-people problems. Midhat’s friend has a family of three school aged kids, who do not have proper electronic equipment to take online classes. One of the kids takes the classes on the mother’s phone, one joins via the father’s, and one marks attendance through the aunt’s device. 

Fatima Abbas, who has two primary school kids, said her kids’ school have not experimented with online classes. They have instead moved to an assignment based continuation of studies where she has to bring back handouts and homework from their school every week and turn in the ones from the previous week. 

The government of Pakistan announced reopening of schools in phases, with students of grades 9 to 12 returning Sept. 15 , secondary students  Sept. 23, and the primary school students and preschool kids Sept. 30.


Other Stories in Special Report: Shutdown: The Coronavirus

The Spirit of Little Haiti

Savannah Daniels October 14, 2020

Small business owners hope for future relief

Courtney Guarino October 2, 2020

Brooklyn Book Festival held virtually

Chuyan Jiang September 28, 2020

NYC Restaurant owners worry about maintaining business during winter 

Isabel Beer September 27, 2020

The pandemic is causing mental health struggles for many Latinos

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 24, 2020

Politically divided family can agree on one thing, rallies are bad during a pandemic

Michelle Diaz September 23, 2020

New Yorkers are vulnerable to mental issues due to pandemic

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 23, 2020

Healthcare professionals struggle with Trump’s decisions during pandemic

Tori Luecking September 23, 2020

Some Americans Say “Not So Fast” on Operation Warp Speed

James Pothen September 23, 2020

Trump voters unfazed by morality of Trump’s Covid response

Norah Hogan September 22, 2020

Trump rallies continue, despite the rising Covid-19 death toll

Isabel Beer September 22, 2020

Latinos weigh in on President Trump’s management of the pandemic

Paola Michelle Ortiz September 21, 2020

Fast track vaccine causes fear

Kaity Assaf September 21, 2020

It’s business as usual at McSorley’s Old Ale House

Tori Luecking September 20, 2020

Trump defiance to hold indoor rallies amidst COVID-19 sparks polarized responses 

Courtney Guarino September 20, 2020

NYC Cafes and restaurants try and survive the pandemic

Isabel Beer September 19, 2020

A typical afternoon at Shade Bar NYC

Kaity Assaf September 19, 2020

West Village staple, Caffe Reggio, remains open for outdoor dining in the wake of coronavirus restrictions 

Norah Hogan September 19, 2020

Fort Greene’s Dino adds outdoor dining to keep business flowing

Courtney Guarino September 19, 2020

COVID-19 hampers Fashion Week for photographers

Daniel Karel September 18, 2020

On the heels of revelation that Trump downplayed the covid threat, voters question rallies resuming

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 16, 2020

Students from different parts of the world struggle as schools reopen during a pandemic

Chuyan Jiang September 12, 2020

Special needs students face learning obstacles during Covid-19

Courtney Guarino September 12, 2020

Back to school – COVID-19 style 

Isabel Beer September 12, 2020

The new normal for school life is abnormal in Michigan

Sughnen Yongo-Okochi September 11, 2020

California School District Parents and Teachers Clash About Return to School

Norah Hogan September 10, 2020

A tribute to the mask pioneers

Bohao Liu July 11, 2020

Air pollution in China rebounds to pre-COVID level

Hannah Zhang July 11, 2020

ICE takes aim at international students

Maria Abreu July 10, 2020

Chinese students trapped by new ICE policy

Zishu Sherry Qin July 10, 2020

New ICE policy adds more turmoil to the lives of international students

Shiyu Xu July 10, 2020

Lawsuits follow ICE policy barring international students who are taking online classes

Joanna Lin Su July 10, 2020

Economists say the US needs a bold, generous fiscal response. Congress is likely to disappoint. 

Ahmed Mohamed July 9, 2020

Overseas Singaporeans have pandemic obstacles to voting

Yifan Yu July 9, 2020

Proximity sensors and hygiene stations are the “new normal”

Joanna Lin Su July 9, 2020

 Tour ticket vendors miss the hustle and bustle of Times Square

Narkwor Kwabla July 8, 2020

Dengue outbreak could be a greater threat than covid in Singapore

Yifan Yu July 8, 2020

Corporate bankruptcy: ‘A story that’s not going away’

Gaurav Sharma July 7, 2020

Beijing reopens as the second wave of coronavirus dies down

Hannah Zhang July 6, 2020

Masks or no masks?

Bohao Liu July 5, 2020

Varsity Flu

Madeline Gunderson July 3, 2020

Rail travel in China is popular during the pandemic and filled with safety measures

Bohao Liu July 3, 2020

Brazilian international student caught in US travel ban.

Marina Guimaraes July 3, 2020

MTA faces crisis following COVID shutdown

Daniel Girma July 2, 2020

Easter Market goes back to its roots

Kyla Milberger July 2, 2020

China’s Airline Industry Aims to Lure Back Passengers with Unlimited Flight Pass

Zishu Sherry Qin July 1, 2020

US corporate debt soars during coronavirus outbreak

Gaurav Sharma June 30, 2020

In Singapore, gay pride goes online

Yifan Yu June 29, 2020

The Hair Room reopens

Shiyu Xu June 29, 2020

A second wave of the coronavirus creates travel woes in Beijing

Hannah Zhang June 29, 2020