In the second of a two-part series, Dianna Djokey interviews local resident Adam about his experience of being a migrant, and supply teaching, during the pandemic. Adam’s real name was changed at his request.
Dianna Djokey: What was your response when Covid first broke and how did you support your students?
Adam: In the last couple of weeks leading to the lockdown, I went to several schools and yes, people were worried. Half of the kids didn’t believe it and [the other] half were very worried and some voluntarily wore a mask to school. Teachers tried their very best to ensure that hand sanitizers were present and I took some with me. We tried our best to distance ourselves as much as we could in the classroom.
There were children asking me [questions] left and right because they didn’t know [about the virus], and were scared for their friends or [concerned about] what other people around them were saying, and [they were] wanting to know what Covid was. They wanted to know how they can protect themselves and even asked me if it was the beginning of schools closing.
I did my best to reassure them based on the information I was provided [with]. At that time, if I had said to them, ‘Oh you need to be careful, you shouldn’t do that, and you shouldn’t touch people,’ that would have caused undue panic in my opinion.
When the schools actually did close down across the country, at least they were with people, they were with family that could [maybe] explain to them what was going on much better than I could. On my part I tried to alleviate concerns as concisely as possible without causing distress.
With the possibility of Covid numbers rising what do you have to take into consideration regarding the schools you teach?
I teach teenagers, [who may be more likely to spread Covid-19 than younger children]. It is a concern for me because my husband has health conditions that would [be aggravated] if I got Covid and had to lock myself up with him. However, as I don’t have many avenues for income I can only hope that doesn’t happen. I believe a lot of people in that situation may have [someone] who is less resilient to Covid and [are] still having to go out [and work].
One of my other concerns [is] travelling as I go from one city to the next. There is always that grey area where I’m not sure if I’m doing the right thing or not by going to work, [as] it may not be within the city that I live in.
Do you think the council has been supportive of the community during this period?
Portsmouth hasn’t been one of the cities where many flare ups have occurred, considering we are [so] densely populated. I’m quite pleased we haven’t had a local lockdown so far. We haven’t had major congestion apart from the odd summer days [because] there is a beach in Portsmouth, people flock to it.
I think for the most part I’m pleased with how the council has handled the pandemic within the city. With regard to schools they haven’t particularly held a stance of all the schools closing or when the schools [should] open. [I think the threat of fines for parents who don’t send their children to school] makes things more difficult for the schools and the families and puts them in a combative position that neither of them wants to be in.
The way Portsmouth City Council can support schools is by gathering data, because there hasn’t really been a situation like this [before]. We could look at data from Scotland [which] returned to school a week earlier and compare how their preparations went, so we can learn from their mistakes or implement their strengths.
What do you think Portsmouth City Council can do to further support migrants during the pandemic?
In regard to migrant status the council can do very little, since the policies are at a higher level. The Council cannot advise migrants about their status, they cannot make applications in their stead. What the council could potentially do for people of colour and migrants, or people who fit in both categories, is [support] broader access to other information available.
For instance, I [found] a lawyer – who I researched myself – who can help me with my [visa] application. Now other people may not have [that information]. So maybe the council could help [in providing information]. That could, in turn, help [migrants] with their applications, with their rights, any potential monetary help they can get from charities or government. It could be a great way to start, by collecting information about other organizations and people that could help.
S&C has been awarded funding from the European Journalism Centre Covid-19 Support Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on diverse communities and sectors in Portsmouth:
- voluntary sector, including charities, community groups and social enterprises
- small businesses and self-employed people
- BAME communities
- people with disabilities
We have also been awarded funding from the Public Interest News Foundation Emergency Fund to explore the social impact of Covid-19 on migrants, and asylum seekers and refugees.