Since the emergence of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Xiehe Education has been paying close attention the latest information from government authorities, embassies, consulates, and professional organizations. Among the 3,500 teaching staff at Xiehe, there are more than 500 teachers from other countries. Given these circumstances, how are our foreign staff and teachers choosing to interpret government policies? How are they making teaching arrangements during the epidemic? And what steps are they taking to fight the spread of the virus?
To help answer all the above questions, we interviewed Norman Martin, the Co-Principal of SUIS Wanyuan campus, Dr. Adam Neufield from the Xiehe Education Research Department, and Phil Burnage, the foreign Vice-Principal of SUIS Shangyin Campus. Their experiences provide a clear and honest account of the situation here.
The epidemic broke out while the school was on vacation. As the situation developed, Norm began to receive daily announcements and updates, including government disease outbreak policies and the extensive contingency plans put in place by Xiehe Education during the outbreak to organize management and teaching in response to the epidemic. Norm realized the sheer volume of strict, well-organized, effective measures in place around him. Ranging from the schools and organizations to the central Chinese government, the broad scope of these measures gave him a great deal of confidence in the fact that all stakeholders have been professional in carrying out their duties to maintain a healthy and safe environment.
With regard to these protective measures, from all Norm had read or heard, he had the upmost faith that the Chinese government was being proactive and taking initiative in their response to the coronavirus outbreak. The government, he said, is working to mobilize its resources in the most cautious and effective way possible. In fact, the outbreak is demonstrating a clear advantage of the Chinese government; the ability of policy makers to quickly reallocate resources to whichever areas are in the most need.
Norm went on to mention, when discussing the situation with friends overseas, he has to remind them that China has always been transparent, responsive, and well-executed in responding to the crisis. He also felt it was worth praising China in how the country has unified against the virus, with various regions coming together to support each other and reduce the impact of the outbreak.
As the Co-Principal of a bilingual school, Norm believes that he cannot shirk his leadership responsibilities and must continue to carry out his duties. He hopes to work with the Chinese management team in supporting all of the school’s teachers and delivering a high-quality education despite the extreme circumstances. Just as Shanghai has done, he believes that in this time of crisis, he must effectively coordinate and support his faculty and staff.
The Chinese management team of the school have launched a “partner system”. Chinese employees had already begun implementing this method during the winter vacation, helping foreign teachers either return to Shanghai, or resolve any issues encountered while quarantined somewhere. The school also took part in volunteer activities at Hongqiao Transport Hub. The Xiehe volunteers,wearing appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), helped foreigners successfully register their information to return to Shanghai. Among the volunteers were some of Xiehe Education’s foreign staff.
One of the volunteers was our interviewee, Adam. Upon hearing about the volunteer registration, he was eager to sign himself up. The list filled up very quickly, but Adam was still persistent to be put on the waiting list. This volunteer team was composed of General Principals, school principals, administrative staff, and teachers who are CPC members, members of other political parties, non-partisans. This inspiring group of people represented a growing sense of conviction among the public to rally together against the virus. They also demonstrated the confidence that both the central and local Chinese governments have instilled in the people– a confidence in their collective ability to overcome the outbreak.
Adam was very positive about the government’s efforts to control the outbreak, but what had impressed him the most, he said, were the small things that members of the public were doing to contribute. In his apartment complex, both staff and residents quickly took up the full set of anti-viral precautionary measures (such as wearing masks, proper waste disposal, strengthening entrance security, strengthening control over food and mail deliveries, disinfection procedures, and so on).