By Reem Al-Marei

Wake up, get ready, open our laptops, click join. Before we know it, the teacher says “turn on your camera”. And there you have it, the feeling of 20 students staring at you, even though most are on their phones or daydreaming. “Every day is a new day,” as they say. Well, due to online learning, every day is typically the same. The first six hours go towards Zoom classes, then throw in an hour for any students involved in extracurriculars. After lunch, you continue to study alone until it’s time to go to sleep. If it’s Thursday, you might manage to see your friends, while still doing homework together.

Of course, at the beginning of the pandemic, no one knew what was going on. Due to this, everything shut down including schools, all in hope of life going back to normal, at most, in four weeks. When all restaurants, malls, offices and the country shut down, we students felt at ease during online classes. Thinking everyone was with us. We were fighting one battle.

As time went on, almost everything opened up – all but schools. Businesses were allowed to thrive. On the other hand, education was neglected when four weeks suddenly turned into a year and a half. Some adults thought online schooling was beneficial. Of course to us students, it was not ideal, for both our education and social life.

Starting the school day later, from the comfort of your own home and eating whenever you want – that was fun at the beginning, but we care more about our education than all of this. We were patient to wait until plans for safe reopenings were implemented, for a vaccine to be developed; but education cannot be put on hold any longer.

Cramming for tests became unnecessary because students now have all their notes out during tests. Teaching methods were not adapted in a way to suit this new experience. All it led to was a lack of student engagement, lack of social skills from students, no education, feeling trapped, increase in stress and anxiety – the list goes on and on, but the constant is there’s no real learning.

We students have fallen back immensely due to this. But, having a plethora of high-risk spreader areas such as restaurant dining halls open at some point has even allowed some to improve their businesses. Everyone had a choice. You can go to the office, or work from home. You can have your hair done at a salon, or at home. You can go to the gym, or work out at home. You can eat at a restaurant, or at home. All but us – our only choice is to attend school at home.

When we go back to school, we know it won’t be like how it used to be. We know it’s a risk. We know it’s hard to follow precautions. We know cases might occur. This is the new reality we are living in, the new normal. Our parents coming back home from work – that’s a risk of contagion. Yet parents can’t work from home; instead, they go back to work. But education can only be completed online! How is that possible?!

Every student has a different perspective on what aspect of the school experience has been stolen from them. Nevertheless, we can agree that we have been robbed of our education and years of making memories together. A child’s first steps onto their path of education began with a click of a button, and a high school senior’s last day of school before university ends with the click of a button. As students, we are standing up for what we want. Our teachers, we ask you to stand up with us. Parents support us. Together as a community, we can successfully reopen schools.

Al-Marei is a Grade 9 student in Kuwait.