The Covid-19 (Coronavirus) pandemic has presented unique challenges to all sectors in the affected countries including education.
Social distancing has been the top agenda for governments battling the fast-spread of the disease. The safety measure has proved effective in many countries.
Kenya is among the countries that implemented the closure of schools and universities. Unfortunately, no guidelines exist on how to handle such situations.
With such a contagious disease, it is difficult to predict when it will be fully contained for normal operations to resume in schools and colleges.
Schools have been closed without a definite reopening date. The result has been anxiety among parents, teachers, and students.
Is the anxiety warranted?
Health and safety of students
The need to send students home is clear. Should one teacher or student catch the virus, it will spread like a wild fire in a closed school community.
Most schools are characterised by crowded classrooms, dining halls, and dormitories.
The health and safety of students is a priority to government authorities and school administrators as well.
However, there is a question of whether students are safer at home than at school.
Is it possible for parents to control the movements and actions of students while at home? Can young children play indoors all day?
What is the level of risk that other family members will infect the children while at home?
The pandemic has put additional pressure on parents to, not only take care of themselves but their children as well.
In addition, parents are forced to take on the role of homeschooling their kids without any guidelines, resources, training, or curricula to follow.
As parents try to adjust to their new responsibilities, disadvantaged families have a unique set of challenges.
Many students depend on school meals, especially in slum areas. In some family settings, parents give all they have to send kids to school and pay for their meals.
With sudden closure of schools, parents have to dig deeper to feed their families. Do not forget that governments are pushing employees to work from home.
Think of casual labourers whose kids are home all day. Massive layoffs are looming should health care systems fail to contain the viral disease.
Disadvantaged students may be facing possible starvation or living on a meal per day depending on their parents’ income flow.
The challenge with a crisis like the Coronavirus outbreak is that you cannot put an end date to it.
Schools can only resume when government authorities are sure that students will be safe. Unfortunately, we are still at the stage where new cases are reported daily.
The ministry of education will have to come up with a new school schedule for 2020 after the dust settles.
What about the fees paid for the semester? Will students enjoy any other holidays for the rest of the year?
With the economic downturns that the pandemic has caused, how will parents cover the cost of education?
The focus, at the moment, is on controlling the spread of the disease, which is expected. However, educators must be ready with alternative programs for the year for all levels of education.
Social stigma and new risks
The school environment is a safe haven, especially in boarding schools. Even in day schools, students only confront issues after school.
Now students have to deal with breaking news of increasing deaths and new cases of the Covid-19 every day.
The pandemic has brought intense social stigma with strict measures from governments.
Students are used to social activities after class. The directive now is for them to stay indoors.
As we mentioned earlier, other members of the family pose new risks to students. Think of the members of the family unit that go to work every day.
How safe are the children if such members are infected at work or on public transport?
It is a question of minimising risks between possible infections at school or at home.
What next for students?
This is not a normal holiday! It feels awkward. As a coding school in Kenya, we know that breaks from learning are always welcome.
However, such breaks are only fun with some freedom. This is not one of those. So, what should you do as a student?
1. Observe Safety Measures
If you are reading this, you cannot be depending on your parents to keep you safe. You have a role to play in your personal health and safety.
Follow the simple guidelines given to avoid infection such as washing your hands frequently, social distancing, and seeking medication attention in case you develop symptoms.
Ensure that your family practices the same, especially younger siblings. Your parents could be overwhelmed.
This is a perfect time to enhance your skills in your field online. Do not fall into the temptation of spending all your time on social media.
Do not spend time on news channels either but invest it in learning.
The results will show when you resume school. For coding students, you have an opportunity to explore free coding tutorials.
3. Participate in educational virtual discussions
Students are organised in virtual teams on different social platforms. Get involved in such forums, especially educational forums.
If none exist for your class, create one and encourage your classmates to continue learning.
You may not be online all day but commit some hours to learn from others. The crisis presents an opportunity to reach out to other students communities around the world
Do not limit yourself to student forums in your school or country. In addition, be quick to exist where members deviate from education to irrelevant discussions.
4. Do not panic!
The Coronavirus pandemic has stirred such fear, probably because of the fast spread and tough talk from the government.
Get your facts right from the right sources. Observe the safety measures and train those around to observe the same.
Panicking is not part of it. Use your time well. Do the best you can with the resources at hand.
If you have no access to the internet and a computer, read books. Whatever you do, learn something new!