“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy”-Martin Luther King JR

COVID-19 is a disease that affects the respiratory system of humans and other animals. It causes mild symptoms from sneezing to life threatening symptoms such as pneumonia.

At the time of writing this article, there are 4.23 million cases, and 290K deaths worldwide. On 8th April, my country – Singapore, went under a partial lockdown which the government referred to as a Circuit Breaker. This meant the closure of non-essential services, even restaurants and fast food outlets such as McDonald’s were closed but take away food was allowed. As an added precautionary measure schools were also closed.

It was mandatory for everyone to put on a surgical mask when outdoors or be fined $300 as a penalty for not doing so.

In addition, people were not allowed to visit anyone outside of their immediate family. Even those with grandparents living separately were told not to visit them unless it was necessary, e.g for delivering food, attending to their medical needs, etc. 

I’ve not seen my grandmother in person for over 1 month, only speaking to her over the phone daily. I miss her, I miss her hugs, I miss her spoiling me, I miss her cooking. 

On 4th May, the lockdown was supposed to end but an unexpected new surge of cases from our foreign workers dormitories made the government see fit to extend the lockdown until 2nd June. During this lockdown the government started testing every worker and segregating the infected ones from the non-infected. The lockdown has partially been lifted on 12th May with some services resuming business, such as hair salons and Chinese medical halls. However, social distancing continues, schools and most businesses closed, even amusement centres and cinemas.

I understand why we need to be in lockdown, but I miss being out with my parents at our favourite restaurants, I miss my McDonald’s meals, I miss my bubble-tea. I miss my life before the lockdown. 

My world and my parent’s world has turned upside down. I am writing this article to share my experiences of the lockdown and how I cope with it and what I do to overcome the challenges of social distancing measures and the effects it has had on me and my family in general.

I hope you’ll find my experiences informative whilst at the same time allowing you to understand the impact of this lockdown on children in general no matter where they live. 

I will be touching on three aspects of my life that have been impacted, namely my school life, my home life and my social life.

SCHOOL LIFE My school life has been severely affected by the virus as schools have closed for 2 months (from an initial one month). We now study at home through a government website called SLS (Student Learning Space) and use Zoom for lessons with our teachers. In addition, because our mid-term exams have been cancelled, I have a load of mock exam papers and other worksheets to work on, so I’ll be prepared for my year-end finals. 

Allow me to explain the pros and cons of home base learning so you can better understand how my friends and I feel.

So, what’s been great? Because school is now at home, I get to sleep a little longer instead of getting up early to prepare to go to school. I have time for breakfast and choice of my favourite snacks for my home “recess” compared to what they serve at school as the food in school is utterly atrocious and it is way overpriced.

I also save lots of money as I do not need to take the public bus to school and will not be spending money on food at school.

The home environment is far nicer compared to school, as it is much cleaner (especially the toilet) and I get to sit on an extremely comfortable chair as opposed to a plastic one which we sit on at school.  Home school ends as soon as I finish all my syllabus or worksheets. I can learn at my own pace as there is no specified time to stop school. More importantly when in doubt I get to discuss my work with my parents and my cousin (who stays with us now, a fellow lockdown victim), so I get to have several viewpoints and can get my work done more efficiently.

Now for the negative aspects of this arrangement – One of the things I absolutely loathe about home base learning is the fact that the websites that we use lag way too much as many students are using at the same time.

I also find it hard to learn as no one is speaking so it is quite hard to learn through just plain text as you cannot ask any questions or do anything. All you can do is just sit, read and listen. There is little communication, no one on one interaction. I need interaction. I never thought I’d say this, but I miss school, I’m sure all kids do. 

The other thing that makes it hard to learn is the fact that I don’t have my classmates to talk to, to joke or tease as we do in the classroom or even to discuss topics with. I miss the chats in between classes. When we have our Zoom classes with our teacher, we’re just allowed 5 mins to chat with our friends at the end of the class but during a typical school day, it’s at least an hour or more if you add breaks during lessons and recess. 

I feel the online classes are not sufficient, so I get bored easily once all the work is done, It is very tough to motivate myself to do more work as my mind constantly wanders off, thinking about playing video games or kicking balls around my house.

Because I am staring at a computer screen for several hours makes it bad on my eyes as the UV light emitted by the computer`s screen can deteriorate my eyesight. My eyesight is not very good, so I use glasses to protect them from the UV rays, but I feel it could be affected by the prolonged use of the computer each day during the past 2 months. 

In conclusion, I think home base learning is good but if the software developers could fix bugs on the website and make learning more interactive, I would not mind a couple days of studying at home after the lockdown ends but not the entire week or year as I miss hanging out with my friends from school and playing with them, or going out with them after school for an ice lolly or a meal at McDonald’s. 

As kids we need our friends, life without them has not been easy. It’s not the same interacting virtually. 

HOME LIFE Since every member of my family is at home, there are positives and negatives here too. My cousin is staying at home too as her dormitory at university is closed due to the lockdown.

We live in a condominium which on a typical day has just 2 adults, me, my cousin and our dog – a Singapore Special breed – Pixie. As everyone is at home we have to share the living room space, the television in the living room along with the 2 seater couch (which happens to be our favourite even though we have 2 other arm chairs to sit on) and the bathroom which I have to share with my cousin.

This is at times extremely annoying all round as when I want to play on my Xbox my cousin or my father may want to watch something on TV.  So, we compromise, take turns. Before the lockdown I had the living room all to myself after school, my own time, my space, my territory. 

Although I need to share my space with my cousin, I’m also grateful she’s at home with us as I get to hangout with her, chat about stuff, watch movies with her. I’ve also started to learn how to bake when I helped my cousin bake muffins. We get to have our time while my parents spend their time.

Since I am at home and I can’t go anywhere else my parents allow me more time to play video games. At the same time, I get to do more revisions for all my subjects. I can learn more on my own during the break and hopefully get a head start when I’m back in school.

I get to spend more time with my parents as they are home too. Before the lock down I get to spend only half the day with my mom and 3 hours or so with my dad each night when he gets back from work. They have given me more responsibilities and independence. For example, I make my bed and theirs in the morning, set up the table for breakfast, lunch and dinner and clean up after. I make my own breakfast sometimes, even my dad’s coffee the way he likes it.

Having my parents at home all day also has its issues as their eyes and ears are constantly on me. As I’m bored stuck at home, I tend to find ways to keep myself occupied like conducting random experiments that just pops into my head but that creates a mess at times. As I miss playing football, I practice dribbling and kicking a tennis ball or Pixie’s fluffy toys around the house that sometimes hit some stuff we have in the house. Few things have broken. My indoor extra-curricular activities upset my parents and we end up having arguments, I get punished by losing gaming and TV privileges.

I would rather be at the football field, but the law says I can’t, so the house becomes a field, but I get into trouble with the law at home. 

SOCIAL LIFE My social life has been affected big time by the lockdown. Most of my friends are from school but because school is shut, I can’t see them or hang out with them. 

Even my friend who lives just 4 blocks way from me can’t visit and play with me. We can’t even play within our condo as there is a law against social interactions and all the facilities such as the swimming pool and playground are off limits.

But we found a way around this problem by using Zoom or by using WhatsApp to keep in touch with each other. Since we can’t meet up, my friends and I play video games such as Call of Duty together. It’s fun but it’s not the same as playing together in person.

I miss that bond with my friends and family as whenever there is a random family gathering or special occasion like birthdays, we usually meet up at restaurants or go to each other’s home, but the lockdown has prevented us from seeing each other. 

The virtual world can never be the same as the real one, but the lock down has had an advantage as well. Just before the lock down my friends and I set up a company to sell stuff online and since everyone is at home my colleagues and I have more time to work on our company’s website and hold weekly meetings to discuss the features of our website and ways to improve sales. I learnt a lot about website designing and content from my friends, my own research, and on sales and marketing from my dad. It was something that may not have happened if there wasn’t a lock down.

As an active person, I usually compete in sporting events like duathlon, aquathlon, and triathlons. I’m a Liverpool and Barca fan. I can’t even train for football at the FC Barca academy on the weekends as all training sessions have stopped. Sadly, all competitions that I normally take part in this year has either been cancelled or postponed. These competitions were my distraction from school but even that has been taken away from me.  

I can’t wait for school to reopen. I can’t wait for people to be able to hang out together, to eat at restaurants, play sports happily and to not fear each other.

 “I will love the light for it shows me the way, yet I will endure the darkness, for it shows me the stars”-Og Mandino

The world has changed so much, I think we all want to go back to the way things were before, but sadly, I think that this virus has shaken the world to an extent where the damage done maybe irreversible unless a vaccine is found so we can go back to some form of normality.

My dad says it may take at least 2 more years before things can be normal again but at the same time not all things will be the same again, some maybe better. I hope my friends and I do not need to wait for 2 years; I hope I can see them next month.  

I miss socialising with my friends and family. I do not want to live like caged animals fearing humans. 

Thank you for reading my article. I hope you take in what I wrote so you could understand what your child is going through during these tough times. Like you we want this to be over as well. We want our life’s back.

Stay safe and healthy!