confuse frustration

Schools teaching English as a foreign language (EFL) have reported a “mad weekend” as they tried to deal with the fallout of a Government announcement on Friday mandating their closure this week, without having any details whatsoever on what such “closure” means.

Owners, directors of studies, and administrators, who all wished to remain anonymous, have expressed their “deep frustration” and anger over the sector’s treatment by Government, with comments describing the situation ranging from “a mess” to “chaos” to “a slap in the face”.

On Friday, as new COVID-19 cases neared 100, Minister for Health Chris Fearne announced that all English language schools must close from Wednesday 14th, among other measures, but did not make clear what must happen with the students currently in the country.

So far, nine language schools have been found to contain COVID-positive cases.

English schools remain in the dark whether they would be able to continue face-to-face lessons with students already in the country, or whether they can even provide these lessons online.

However, a legal notice has yet to be published, so schools have been left in limbo with no information on what being closed means.

“Can we shift online?” asked one EFL school administrator. “No one told us we could actually do it.”

The lack of clear guidelines means that schools cannot undertake the necessary preparations, with one owner making it clear that they cannot take any decisions without the legal notice.

“I’m exhausted. I haven’t had a weekend,” he said.

“I’ve just been trying to give some sort of morale to my staff. Just as we started recovering, with everyone exhausted from dealing with a tsunami of bookings, my staff now needs to scramble to cancel all the work they did. It’s just so demotivating.”

He believes the uncertainty being felt today is worse than that felt during the worst times of last year.

“Can my staff come into school to do admin?” he asked. “We don’t know the terms of closure.”

One school’s receptionist said a comment would be impossible today as everyone in the school was working flat out to respond to calls and inquiries in any way they could.

Meanwhile, an administrator at another school said the changing of flight details, booking COVID tests and dealing with postponements and cancellations made for an “extremely busy weekend and week so far.”

Another owner lamented the lack of enforcement in places where large groups of people were gathering, saying the situation was unfair on those who followed procedures and put in the investments required to ensure a safe environment.

“There has not been a single case at our school,” she said. “We keep our teens in their own bubble, using their own coaches, and conduct most of their outdoor activities on premises. Our serious and holistic approach to health and security is actually how we advertise ourselves.”

“And now, because the authorities accepted flagrant rule breaking, showed no will to enforce, and allowed a complete free for all out there, they do this political stunt to appease the sheep.”

The comment reflects a statement released on Saturday by the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations (FELTOM), which described the announcement as “drastic” and “shocking”.

It pointed out that although schools done their utmost to impress the importance of adherence to COVID-19 measures on their students, “the reinforcement of such measures by the government has been barely visible, bearing in mind that it is only government that has the authority to enforce such measures”.

“This going to destroy our industry,” said the owner.

“This is the worst hit we could have had. And they just don’t care.”

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