Selam Ghidey is the mother of a daughter who is a fifth-grader in the Cherry Creek School District. The African Leadership Group interviewed Selam recently about how the pandemic affected her daughter’s learning as well as her work life, and whether this school year feels more like a return to normal.
African Leadership Group: Education has been disrupted for the past couple of school years. How does it feel at the start of this year, when things are more or less back to normal?
Selam Ghidey: It is a mixed, bittersweet feeling, bittersweet feeling. It feels good that students are back to school, however the pandemic has created a great pause in learning to where we can’t feel 100 percent good. It is still lingering and we feel constantly cautious and restless.
ALG: Are things back to normal?
Selam I wouldn’t say things are back to normal, in fact I don’t think we know what normal is anymore. We are describing it as the ‘new normal,’ and that explains how much things have changed.
ALG: How do things feel normal and how aren’t they normal?
Selam: What feels normal in our daily lives are things like going to work, going to school, in general people doing what they do to live. What feels not normal is how we don’t do things the way we used to do, even though masks are not mandatory anymore, we still have to wear them in certain places like work – depending on where you work. When we are sick with a cold, we automatically think it could be Covid and that thought stops us from mingling with family/friends, fearing we could make them sick.
ALG: What are your hopes for the new school year for your daughter?
Selam: I feel good about the start of the school year. My hope is that the entire year continues without any more disruption.
ALG: How did the pandemic affect your work life and your daughter’s education?
Selam: As a single parent I had to stay at home because my child was learning remotely for a year and four months. She has absolutely fallen behind. The pandemic has made students fall behind on their education. They have missed many months of learning, and switching to remote leaning wiped out academic gains for many students.
ALG: What can schools do to help students who have fallen behind?
Selam: For students to catch up, schools should provide extra help before and after school, helping them in the areas that they are struggling.