Baker Lake, Nunavut, Canada

A look at how teachers, parents and teachers are coping with schooling during the coronavirus global pandemic.


Occupational therapist Tara and her husband live in the prairie province of Manitoba, Canada, with their two sons, aged 12 and 8.

She says coronavirus affected her directly in early March when she was working in schools in Nunavut  – the vast, sparsely populated northernmost territory of the country. The government in Ontario announced it had cancelled school for three weeks to flatten the curve of infection and transmission, she says.

“The announcement came in the morning and by 4 pm I was instructed to get on a flight home. They were unsure what the situation in Nunavut or in my province, Manitoba, would be moving forward.”

Since then, she says, her family has been together in social isolation without visitors, all day, every day.

“We used to be on the road every day but now we are working from home,” she says. “It has been hard to balance work, parenting and homeschooling our children. There has been more than one tearful day from me.”

However, the boys’ teachers and the school have been fantastic, she says and relieved her worry that she would have to plan her sons’ schooling. Work is assigned to be completed each day, videos uploaded explaining the work, lessons given live online and time available with teachers online also. Packages of printed materials are picked up from the school as needed and the completed work is submitted to Google classrooms.

They focus two to four hours a day on schooling, Tara says, with some days being harder than others.

“Trying to keep them occupied the rest of the time is the difficult park,” she says. “Parks are closed here so we have a trampoline and ride bikes and go for walks for recess time and just to get moving.”

Residents were recommended to shop only once a week and for only one person per family to do that weekly shop, and the wearing of cloth masks was also recommended.

The Internet became the family’s social channel during isolation, as the boys used Kids Messenger to catch up with their friends, and the parents held Zoom visits with their friends in the evenings.

Like many other countries, Canada instigated social distancing, with essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and hardware stores remaining open. This week, on May 4, restrictions started to be relaxed in Manitoba, with more businesses allowed to open for at least limited services.

These include retail businesses; restaurants for patio service and pickup; therapeutic and medical services, including non-urgent surgery and diagnostic procedures; museums, galleries and libraries; seasonal day camps, outdoor recreation and campgrounds; and hair salons.

Tara says some businesses don’t have protocols in place or appropriate protective equipment so are choosing to remain closed or to open later. In those that do open, 2-metre physical distancing is still required, as are frequent cleaning and sanitizing and time limits on customer interactions.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been very calm, open and positive about what is going on and makes a statement every morning, she says, including a recent one in which he answered letters and questions from the nations’ children. Trudeau’s wife, Sophie Grégoire Trudeau, tested positive for coronavirus early on, sending the first family into isolation, so the disease is particularly close to home for him.

Tara says her boys are doing well in their new normal but are missing their friends and their sports of baseball and figure skating. They are following the new rules without many questions, she says, and she feels they are handling it better than their parents.

“No person can be a teacher, a parent and full-time worker and you need to give yourself a break,” she says. “It’s ok if the boys’ work doesn’t get done, or the house is a mess or you need a mental health day to binge watch Harry Potter with your kids.

“It’s ok not to be everything to everyone and to take a break.”