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What next for children as schools remain closed?

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By Dickson Tumuramye

We asked our children to tell us the plans they have since schools are still closed and each one of them gave us their planned activities. Our adopted daughter who is in senior three (S.3) told us that she had lost hope after spending three years in the same class since 2019.  She had not performed well and  we encouraged her to repeat the class, not knowing that Covid-19 would hit us and turn things around. She was meant to be finishing senior four (S.4) in 2021 but alas, she is still in the same class. She frankly told us that she would opt  to drop out of school and start working.

She may  not  be the only one who has lost hope and considering dropping out of school. I have heard of other adolescents who abandoned because they felt like they had outgrown their respective classes. Some have been impregnated and others married. 

Children play home-made ball amidst while they remain out of school. (Photo/UNICEF)

Lost hope
When you ask children the class they are in, you see them struggling to give an exact answer because they are also confused.  Since March 18, 2020, the lower primary has never been at school again.

I lead a fellowship of different families and we hold family service every Sunday. Their common prayer request is for schools to open. How can parents handle children in these unprecedented times as many of them are frustrated because schools are still closed?

As the government is still talking about vaccinating at least 65 percent of teachers and older children without giving the public a clear program when schools will be opened, many learners are seeing no future. When we hear speculations of the third wave, our hopes of seeing schools opened become so slimy.

Dates for reopening keeping changing almost weekly.  The majority of the children are at home doing nothing. Some of their parents lost jobs or businesses and they are struggling to meet basic needs. This too has increased their challenges and tested their parenting.  

Parents should not give up since we are the pillars of our families. We should also not let our children lose hope because this situation will  not stay forever. It is our responsibility to provide guidance to our children. It is also our primary role to plan for them. They are not the ones to plan for us or for themselves alone. When a leader shows any weakness, the followers will definitely lose hope as well. This calls us to remain courageous.

Parents help their daughters study from home. (Photo/National Conference of State Legislatures)

There is going to be increased inequality in the education system. Some schools in urban areas have continued to teach their learners online, or take notes to children in their respective homes and do a weekly assessment, while others are doing nothing for their learners. Some parents are doing homeschooling with private teachers.

Alternative education
All is not yet lost. If you have children who are not studying from home, ensure they are doing other things. Informal education becomes very vital here for interactive and skills engagement practices. Make sure that children are not just seated. 

Since the lockdown started last year, what new skill has your child learnt? What new innovations have you taught them? What income-generating strategies/skills are they practicing? How many times have you sat them down to discuss their future as schools are still closed? What soft skills have they acquired? What positive things will they remember about this pandemic in the future? 

Teach them skills like self-management, social, drug resistance, critical thinking among others. Engage them in home chores daily during this lockdown. Some organisations are providing different services online for children who are still at home.  There are also many free virtual classes aimed at providing skills development to children. These are opportunities you should not miss. 

A man teaches a child hand washing as a health practice and self-care method. (Photo/UNICEF)

Reach out to schools that are doing online learning and enroll your child there so that they keep updated. Buy school textbooks that follow the curriculum and get a teacher to continue helping your children from home. If you can not afford it alone, combine efforts with your neighbours,  mobilise children together and hire a private teacher.

Do not let your children suffer mental health challenges, use drugs and other substances due to boredom or self-rejection at home. Avoid domestic violence as a family and keep your family together in one accord.
 The writer is a child advocate, parenting  coach, and marriage  counselor.

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