An Auckland mum has urged calm and deep breaths over the furore online about whether children should be going back to school so quickly during the Covid-19 outbreak.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced yesterday schools and early childhood centres would reopen when the country exits its hardline alert level 4 lockdown next Tuesday and enters alert level 3.
However, Ardern urged parents to keep their children at home, saying education facilities were only open to kids who had no one available to care for them during the day.
Most schools said they would meet the Government's timetable to reopen.
But the Early Childhood Council - whose 1300 childcare services have about 65,000 of the 200,000 children enrolled in early childhood education - still recommended its centres to stay closed because of the risk of spreading coronavirus.
Facebook subsequently lit up with ugly back and forth comments, alternately accusing teachers of being scared to do their jobs and parents of unnecessarily putting educators at risk by sending their kids out of their bubbles.
Onehunga mum Linda Stewart decided to wade into the mess by posting a positive message on Facebook in support of both teachers and parents in the hope of spreading calm.
"Both parents and teachers have been copping some pretty unfair comments," she told the Herald.
"They are being said out of anger from people being scared, and I just wanted to try and counteract it and try and bring parents and teachers together."
Many families were doing it tough, but that wasn't a reason to attack teachers, she said.
She hoped everyone would take a moment to put themselves in each other's shoes.
"People are scared, they are afraid for their families and I really wanted to put a positive voice in there and let teachers know that as parents we do support them now the decision has been made for schools to reopen," she said.
"It was really the only thing I could think of that we could do to help just to encourage people to keep their children at home if they can.
"And at the same time I wanted to send a message out to parents that we understand that not everyone is in a position to make those choices."
Stewart also said parents should not be too hard on themselves about the need for children to get a top class academic education during these difficult few weeks.
"Children learn as they go about their daily lives," she said.
This was a time they could also look beyond their books, she said. The current situation could open their young eyes to valuable lessons about the importance of family, community and pulling together.
Linda Stewart's open letter to parents and teachers
Dear Parents / Caregivers of New Zealand,
Our schools will be opening next week.
Many teachers are worried for their own safety, and for those in their bubble, and for the children they teach, and the communities they work in.
Most teachers give their all to their jobs and will continue to do so through the coming days.
Some are nailing online teaching.
Others are struggling.
Let's show them some grace.
Our children will be ok whether they are engaged in formal learning or not.
And while you're at it, show yourself some grace too.
Not everybody can manage home schooling.
Not everybody has devices and internet.
Your children will be ok without academic learning for a while.
Hug them, feed them, read to them and take care of yourself as best you can.
And if you can keep your children at home, then please keep your children at home.
Some of you don't have choices that others take for granted.
Maybe you are parenting solo.
Maybe you don't know where your next meal or rent payment is coming from.
Maybe you are in a circumstance that others can't even fathom.
We're not asking this of you.
We're not judging you.
But if you can keep your children at home, then please keep your children at home.
Leave school for those that truly need it.
And, a message for our teachers:
We are backing you the best way we know how.
By keeping our children at home if we can.
Please understand that not all of us can do this.
We know you are giving your all in such difficult circumstances.
Thank you for all you are doing.
Thank you for caring so much,
We want you, our children, our families, and our communities to be safe.
And parents, if you can keep your children at home then please keep your children at home.
We can get through this together.
- Linda Stewart