By Dickson Tumuramye
After the recent presidential directive that students who are in candidate classes and final years in higher institutions of learning should resume school on 15th October 2020, every school and institution is working hard to receive their pupils/students in less than a week from now.
This decision to take children back to school/university is still a hard paper for some parents due to the fact that positive cases of Covid-19 and deaths keep increasing daily. Every parent wants to see their children complete their final years but the uncertainty lies between understanding and finding a coping mechanism in which the learners will embrace the new normal.
What everyone is not fully aware of is when other learners in lower classes will report to school and obviously, this also causes some challenges with parents. It has never been easy to keep all school going children at home for this long. The upkeep and care in some families has not been an easy walk after incidences of loss of jobs and businesses due to Covid-19.
The Ministry of Education and Sports in Uganda released Standard Operating Procedures (SOP’s) for learning institutions to follow and these may pass as decent measures to the health & safety of learners, but they may not necessarily help all the students to stay safe given that these are new guidelines that may not be easily adapted to. For instance on of these guidelines states that there must be regular sanitizing or washing of hands, wearing of masks and temperature gun-checks at every access point, will children respond to all this daily? If a learner fails to comply with the regulations, what will happen?
Learners suspected to have Covid-19 symptoms and signs will be put in isolation or quarantined either at school or at a recognized health center for better management, how will your child physiologically and mentally cope with that?
Issues of social distancing and spacing of two meters apart in a class or dormitory, are these even possible to adhere to by the learners?
On the other hand, parents too have a responsibility of teaching their children and making them aware of these SOP’s and emphasizing compliance towards them.
As the SOP’s are to be observed, issues of fear and anxiety may also arise amongst learners. If it is your child affected, be sure that chances of poor academic performance may arise.
Some children may have been confined at home since the lockdown and may have never been out to try these Covid-19 control and safety measures ever since they were enforced. To them, it will be completely a new thing. Do not assume that your child is old enough, has been watching TV or listening to radio Covid-19 awareness campaigns.
Teachers need to be very patient with learners and set tolerant reminders about compliance of the SOP’s
In case of any suspected cases, school management should handle this very professionally to ensure it will not spread speculations of more infections and anxiety among learners.
Our children should be well prepared to avoid stigmatizing their fellow friends suspected to have the virus. It is the teachers’ responsibility to help children understand that any flu or cough and coldness or fever does not necessarily mean COVID-19 infection.
The school administration needs to regularly keep in touch with parents in order to update them on the welfare of their children to avoid any parents having to take it upon themselves to travel to schools to check on their children.
I pray your child will stay safe at school.
The writer is a child advocate, parenting coach, and marriage counselor.