Education experts are warning that schools will need to be specially equipped to help students stranded overseas to catch up on missed classes when they return, as trapped Australian children contemplate repeating a grade.

The alarm has been echoed by federal opposition’s education spokeswoman, Tanya Plibersek, with the Australian Education Union also warning that schools in general are under-resourced to support Covid-19-affected student learning.

On Wednesday, updated government statistics showed 23,000 Australians overseas wanted to return home but cannot, as the foreign minister, Marise Payne, acknowledged Australia’s strict international arrival caps “are making it harder” for them to do so.

The number of Australians who registered their intention with the government has increased by 5,000 over a fortnight.

The government also announced new hardship loans to cover temporary accommodation and daily living expenses for citizens.

Stranded Australians can also use the loans to purchase flights home, an acknowledgement from the government that frustrated airlines have been bumping economy class – and increasingly business class – passengers to prioritise the most expensive tickets and remain profitable under the caps.

Guardian Australia has previously confirmed flights into Australia landing with as few as four economy passengers, with Qatar Airways acknowledging it is taking ticket value into consideration when determining which passengers fly into Australia.

Malaysia Airlines also confirmed on Wednesday that it would cease flying into Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth from 25 October as a result of the caps, as the Board of Airline Representatives issued its second plea in less than a week for a roadmap for opening up Australia’s international borders

The caps, introduced in July to ease pressure on states’ hotel quarantine regimes, limit total arrivals into Australia to about 4,000 a week and some flights to less than 30 passengers.

Limits requested by states are enforced by the commonwealth, which controls borders, and reviewed by national cabinet.

Petitions to government, support groups and websites have formed to draw attention to the issue, with one – removethecap.com – attempting to collaboratively map where all Australians are stranded.

Students without school

Dr Ilana Finefter-Rosenbluh, a lecturer in educational assessment and ethics at Monash University, said the fact there were students who were not able to attend school because they were overseas was something politicians “need to consider”.

“If these children lose a year of studies, if they were not engaged at all … when they return, we simply cannot just tell these students ‘here are the assessments’.”

Finefter-Rosenbluh said each student’s context, including the mental effect of being stranded, would need to be taken into account, in a similar way to how the Victorian government will adjust ATAR marks.

“When they come back and are in the system here, we need to be ready to provide them with assistant teachers, aides and any extra support for these students to catch up,” she said. “There should be an obligation, because it’s the ethical thing to do.”

Correna Haythorpe, the Australian Education Union president, said teachers had already worked “extremely hard” to help students learn during widespread remote learning, and that “more resources, such as additional education support staff, are vitally important to support student learning” during the pandemic.

The education minster, Dan Tehan, when asked what advice he would give to students stuck overseas who have been unable to go to school, said: “My message to all school students is to keep trying because the work you do this year is incredibly important.”

Plibersek, responding to Tehan’s message, said: “The Liberals need to explain what they will do to give students the extra help they’ll need to catch up if they’ve fallen behind while learning remotely.”

“They’ve had the school year from hell,” she said.

Stuck in Cairo

Maya Hamze, a 14-year-old from the Sydney suburb of Granville, has been stuck in Cairo since February with her sister Amina, 12, and brother Adam, 7.

The children have not been to a school class all year, and Maya, in year 9, is worried she has already fallen so far behind that she will not be able to achieve her aspirations of being a brain surgeon.

She is suffering fits of anxiety at the thought, her mother, Riad Houda, said.

The family travelled to Cairo in February for a six-week trip to visit their father, Moustafa, who had returned to his native Egypt to apply for a new partner visa to remain in Australia.

As borders quickly shut at the beginning of March, the mother of three desperately tried to bring forward her April flights, to no avail. Their Etihad flights have since been repeatedly cancelled.

In what is her and her childrens’ first visit to Egypt, the family feel unsafe venturing outside due to the fear of coronavirus, and are living in Moustafa’s mother’s flat.

The kids have not had access to stable internet and, as they left Australia before the pandemic, only carried textbooks for the lessons they knew they would miss. They are not technologically prepared for remote learning.

Riad told the Guardian she though her children would have to repeat the school year, something Maya feared would see her removed from her gifted-class stream at school.

“I don’t think we can mentally cope any more,” Houda said.

Adding to the family’s woes is Riad’s pregnancy. She has been told she needs special prenatal care, which she can only access in Australia. She is worried that if her next flight – on 1 October – is cancelled, it will be too late to fly.

Riad said the hardship loans announced on Wednesday “don’t actually get us on a flight … Lifting the caps would be much better than loans”.

An Etihad spokesman said: “No passenger or group is prioritised over another.”

After Guardian Australia contacted Etihad, the family was rebooked for a flight next week.

Do you know more? Contact elias.visontay@theguardian.com

_______
https://ift.tt/1OKDQck
https://ift.tt/31QGLjz
https://ift.tt/2YPeqIA

By admin