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School closures hit hard young minds, parents

By Evelyn Makena
Friday, July 10th, 2020
Students in class. Following outbreak of Covid-19, the State has suspended learning in all institutions of basic education for the rest of this year. Photo/PD/FILE
In summary
    • Stakeholders say  the extension of reopening of schools to January next year will demoralise learners.
    • The emotional toll of these events could push some children to depression, crime or substance abuse
    • For those who have been attending online classes, they may be reluctant to continue with the lessons.

Last Tuesday’s announcement by Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha that schools will resume in January due to the coronavirus pandemic has now dashed the hopes of learners who aspired to move up the next level of their academic ladder.

Bewildered children who have been home since mid-March when the first case of coronavirus was reported have now been thrown into greater confusion.

Yesterday, the pupils, parents, teachers and psychologists admitted the uncertainties in the education sectors occasioned by the pandemic has thrown children, mainly used to routines off-balance.

Susan Kahema, a counseling psychologist said it is now upon parents to create time to talk to their children and make them understand about the current turn of events and explain to them that the decisions that have been taken are for their own safety.

Helping them cope

“Parents need to have serious conversations with children and explain that it is not an individual issue , but one that affects the education system locally and globally.

Focus on here and now and help them understand that the move is meant to protect their health and is not punitive in any way,” she says.

Kahema said that it was a delicate balancing act to choose between maintaining the safety of children and ensuring they do not miss out on their studies with the former being most important.

To help children cope with the current situation, Kahema says there is a need for parents to look at the added time as an opportunity for them to not only impart life skills to their children, but also develop their talents.

In addition, she told the parents to use the extended time opportunity for families to bond and build intimacy. 

At the same time, it’s a time to allow children to play even if it means indoors as it is an important component of their growth and an aspect they may miss out on due to tight school schedules.

“Engage children in constructive activities that can help them learn skills. Let children also have time to develop their talents,” she said..

Kahema’s sentiments came on the day parents who spoke to the People Daily explained how they have been forced to painfully explain to their children that they will have to go back to the classes they were due to the coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed operations worldwide.

Sammy Ngare, a parent said  her  five-year-old daughter is yet to make sense why this has happened.

According to him, the uncertainty over when she would resume school has been taking an emotional toll on her as she is yet  to come to terms with the news that she will repeat a class.

He said that the idea of repeating a class has brought a sense of loss to children who feel like this academic year has gone to waste  and thus said that there is need for close attention of the children.

“Upon receiving the news yesterday, my daughter broke down. I had to encourage her that all was not lost,” saod Ngare. 

“Older children in secondary school and upper primary school may not openly express their emotions, but they are internally dealing with loss of an academic year,” he adds. 

Ngare says the emotional toll of these events could push some children to depression, crime or substance abuse.

Kisii County Parents Association chairman Michael Onsare said the extension of reopening of schools to January next year will demoralise learners.

He said children were anticipating reporting to schools in September, stressing the CS could have given the children hope.    

The chairman noted the prolonged stay by learners at home will create more problems such as teenage pregnancies, drug, substance and alcohol abuse, adding the extension of the period caught many parents by surprise.

“Many learners are likely to drop out of school due to teenage pregnancies, drug and alcohol abuse,” Onsare told People Daily in Kisii town yesterday.

Prince Ndwiga, a teacher at Ruiru Senior School said that he has spent the past two days catching up with students and finding out their reaction to the new school calendar. 

“Unfortunately, some students, especially those that had repeated Form Four say that they will not be resuming next year. Some are on the verge of despair,” he said.

The school, he said, has been conducting digital learning since the pandemic broke out and now with news that they will repeat classes, students are reluctant to continue attending online classes. 

Ndwiga also raised concerns about another category of students who have been involved in businesses during the break.

“They have had a taste of money and studies have taken a backseat. Now they are seriously likely to engage in businesses for the remaining time before schools resume,” he said.

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