Maybe we aren’t ready to have kids back in school

Tononoka, covid-19

Pupils walking outside Tononoka Secondary School in Mombasa where several cases of Covid-19 have been reported.

Photo credit: Laban Walloga | Nation Media Group

If you consider how we’ve been operating as a nation, as a government, as a ministry, as parents, as siblings, as children themselves, it doesn’t feel like we are.

I don’t know a single parent who was prepared for their children to maybe get coronavirus in the name of getting an education. 

Granted, there is a strain involved in having to figure out this new landscape of having your children around all the time (a whole new world of parenting, made even more difficult if you haven’t built a relationship with them or been made aware of who they are as people), and many parents hand over the job of entertaining and educating children over to schools, but I don’t know if this opening schools thing is the solution.

I also don’t know any teachers who appear ready to teach again. Not that I know enough teachers for a large sample size – but I do know that it would appear that the money for desks and masks for school-going children has somehow managed to disappear. 

This in itself was a reach for me – not only do they give out the tender for making desks to someone who has disappeared with it, but also, they are trying to supply schools that never had desks in the first place. And that would imply that not only is there no plan now, but also there actually has never been one.

I keep thinking over and over again that this would have been so much easier if a couple of campaign promises were implemented. If children all over Kenya actually received all those laptops that they were initially promised. This unforeseen rainy day would have been a lot simpler to adapt to.

But they did not, and here we are. So what now?

For one thing, CBC as a curriculum was supposed to be overhauling the old and antiquated 8-4-4, giving parents more of a chance to participate in and broaden their children’s education. I don’t know if that’s what it is doing, but maybe at this point we need to implement it in a more orderly fashion, and tweak it into what we actually will need, and use. And give us those laptops.

Perhaps the person in charge of education in the country can give us clearer direction on taking our children back to school, as opposed to yelling at journalists at press conferences and brushing off their concerns in a way that gives no comfort or reassurance whatsoever. 

And maybe the next time it is time to rotate ministers, they could choose someone a bit more attuned to the needs of learners, instead of alternating between security experts and professional diplomats.

All we can do, though, is support the children through this pandemic learning, and hope that they are learning, even a little, enough to carry them through the next couple of years, before things stabilize again. 

Hopefully we can also remind them that in spite of the ministry, exams aren’t everything, and the life skills they’re learning during the pandemic will teach them more than textbooks ever will. 

And then, when elections come around again, we can remember to make a choice based on what this government did, or didn’t do, for our children.

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