During the COVID-19 pandemic, in North Macedonia the school desks were substituted with computer monitors, while the homes were turned into classrooms. The classroom teaching was forcibly interrupted, imposing a challenge to both students and teaching staff. Lately, the teaching process is suffering from longer breaks again, due to false alerts about planted bombs, keeping the students away from schools.
How are the interruptions of the usual teaching process affecting young people and their performance and knowledge and what kind of damage will they cause on the long run. This topic was at the core of the discussion with teacher Elizabeta Sekirarska from the secondary school “Pero Nakov” from Kumanovo. She has been working in the field of education for more than 30 years, applying contemporary teaching methods and techniques and working as a trainer and developer of IT tools for her students.
“The interruptions of the teaching process cause insufficient performance of young people and that has consequences on the level of knowledge and understanding acquired, which is quite obvious”, Sekirarska says.
According to her, the effect of the home-learning system, under the supervision and presence of family members within a limited common space and where everyone does not have unlimited resources, is a stressful situation. Such feelings of uncertainty, fear and apprehension reappeared in young people after the false alerts about planted bombs in secondary schools in Skopje due to which the teaching process was discontinued yet again.
“The effect of such seriously big threats for the students is strong. One might ask what that means for their mental health and the development of their stern life experience in conditions of fear and panic. Such a form of cyber-attack is indeed part of the bigger picture, in which the children, unfortunately, are – yet again – collateral damage and a piece of the puzzle of parental and teacher care, which is the most difficult one for all of us”, explains the teacher.
She deems that both situations are connected by a common thread: the state in which the students are put outside the school, as the basic learning space where they grow and mature, recognized as part of the learning and upbringing process, which is supposed to be uninterrupted.
“Specifically, these generations are up against some of the difficult aspects of the new era and, unfortunately, yes – they can be referred to as damaged generations that had to learn life through frightening and panicking circumstances that hardly leave space for managing life, except for adjusting. Both as students and young people, their life should look somewhat different at this point of life”, added the teacher.
Under the circumstances, the influence of the parents is very important. To their children, they should interpret such state of affairs as it really is and direct them towards attentiveness, cooperation, and seriousness. Sekirarska believes that, in a pedagogical sense, the teacher influence is enormous and teachers should make these challenges easier for the students, to calm them down and try to explain to them that in a predicament of various kinds and intensity of crisis, teachers are standing by them.
“This task is not easy, neither for the parents, nor for the teachers. The circumstances, full of anxiety and real fear of what could happen, make it difficult for the students to live nowadays. Only the awareness that they need assistance and support in a psychological and pedagogical sense, can make it easier for them to bear the burden of the time they mature as adults”, she said.
In the last month, a dozen schools in Skopje received a total of eight false alerts about planted bombs, after which the schools were emptied for the police to conduct anti-terrorist checks. The students were dismissed. All alerts proved to be false.
The alerts were regularly submitted on Wednesdays, Thursdays or Fridays. As pointed out by the Minister of Interior, Oliver Spasovski, and the headmasters of the schools, the same student shifts were targeted in all the cases.
Meta News Agency managed to secure a copy of the contents of most of the false bomb alerts. The last one was sent exactly a week ago and it different from the previous ones by the fact that the sender demanded ransom to allegedly not detonate the bomb.
The false alert from 2nd November contained Putin’s joke that he told at the last plenary session of the 19-th Annual Meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, with a seat in Moscow. After the first alert, one person was detained, but no indictment followed.
The first false alert about planted bomb was sent to the secondary schools in Skopje on the 26th October (Wednesday).
After the series of false alerts, the school managements waited for directions from the Ministry of Education and Science (MES) of North Macedonia how to compensate for the lost classes and the lessons missed. The responsible persons from MES sent an announcement demanding from the schools to find a way to make up for the omitted lessons until the end of the first term i.e., by New Year.
Although Minister Spasovski announced a resolution of the case soon, details about who is interrupting the teaching process and scaring the students, their parents and teachers, as well as the whole society, are still lacking.