SMU student Abena Marfo has become a temporary educator for her younger sister in the wake of the coronavirus.
“She is only 13 years old,” Marfo said. “She’s basically doing this whole eighth grade thing online by herself.”
Schools in the Dallas area have moved classes online for the remainder of the academic year in hopes to slow down the spreading of the coronavirus. This has become a challenge for many students who have never taken an online class before.
Marfo’s day consists of her attending her own online classes for SMU through Zoom, getting her sister set up for class, finishing any homework that is due, and helping her sister with various assignments she has that day.
“Most of the time I am reiterating what the teacher said in class,” Marfo said. “It’s a lot of making sure she understands the content and doesn’t fall behind.”
Marfo’s sister attends Harmony School of Innovation in Garland, Texas. The transition to online classes has consisted of many Khan Academy and YouTube videos to supplement the one Zoom meeting a week for each subject. Marfo’s sister finds the Zoom meetings to be more distracting than informative.
“The Zoom meetings are not really helpful because the whole eighth grade class is on it,” Akua Marfo said. “My teachers usually get off topic.”
Additionally, Abena Marfo is juggling learning new material for her classes and becoming familiar with eighth grade material so that she can help teach her sister.
“I have had to brush up a little on my eighth grade curriculum so that I am explaining the material correctly,” she said.
The responsibility of teaching her sister has affected Marfo’s ability to get her own work done. The Marfo sisters have been trying to create a routine for their new normal through trial and error.
“I do have to be more careful with my time,” Abena Marfo said. “Already it’s a challenge doing work from home because you can’t find a really nice spot to study. It has been a little stressful, but I think since it is the second week we have gotten a routine down.”
The Marfo family is curious to see how the school plans to aid in the students transition to the next grade and guarantee academic success. Akua Marfo is expected to enter high school next year and does not have the usual simple transition from eighth to ninth grade. In addition, Abena Marfo believes it is harder to learn online for secondary students.
“It’s one thing to self-teach when you’re in college,” she said. “But it’s another thing to self-teach when you are still in middle school. It’s a lot of foundational information that you can’t really miss.”
Abena Marfo plans to continue to aid her sister in any way that she can for the remainder of the school year.
“I’m there as a pillar just to make sure she knows what is going on,” she said.