• Health CS ordered that parents keep their children in the house to avoid the spread of coronavirus.
• Parent says children disappear from parents' sight within minutes and come back after some hours.
In Nairobi's Maringo Estate a usually busy playfield was deserted, giving the impression parents are keeping their children safe in the homes.
When the Star visited, four children were huddled together on the field, about to share a bag of chips.
The five were all enjoying the meal when a woman yelled at them for not having washed their hands before eating.
They all put the fries back inside the bag and rushed to wash their hands together in a basin with outside the house.
“How long is coronavirus going to be here? These children should go back to school,” Winnie Mugure, mother of three, complained.
A spot check in the residence revealed that many parents have moved their children out of the city in the wake of coronavirus.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe blamed parents for letting their children go out to mingle with others “like they are on holiday”. He insisted that the children are home for protection.
But many parents who find themselves overwhelmed by the responsibility, look for other ways to keep their children safe.
Mugure says if her mother stayed in the village, she would already have taken the children to her – like three of her neighbours.
“It looks like December here. This estate has so many children, but today, this field is empty. Their absence is so loud,” she said.
Mugure’s eldest daughter, nine, knows just as much about coronavirus as the youngest son who is five.
“Coronavirus is a disease like the common cold, but it raises your fever and kills you. When you get it, you have to live alone,” the boy explains to the Star.
He says his teacher at PCEA Makadara Academy explained that to them, “but Janet insists on taking credit”.
The two children know that to reduce the risk of contracting the virus, one has to wash their hands regularly, cover their mouth when sneezing or coughing and greet each other with the elbow. However, they affirm that playing together with other children is not a risk.
“They do not have coronavirus, they are healthy. I know them very well,” the elder daughter says, seeking approval from Mugure.
Mugure knows it is risky to let her children go out to play with other children but explains how difficult it would be to keep them locked in the house.
Besides her tin-walled house getting uncomfortably hot during the day, Mugure says sometimes she has to work.
“I sometimes have to go to the market where I sell clothes, which means I have to leave the older one in charge. How then will I ensure they don’t go out?”
She, however, admitted that even when she stayed at home, the children still slip away only to return after some hours.
“Managing children is difficult, that is why we love it when school opens.”
Three of Mugure’s next-door neighbours were not the only ones who had opted to take their children to the village in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Some parents believe that coronavirus will affect Nairobi more than anywhere else, so they took their kids to make sure they are better protected,” Makadara resident Victoria Wahu said.
Wahu said most parents in the area are finding it difficult to control their children’s movement the whole day as they have to work.
“Many children by nature love to play. They play almost everywhere. Keeping them tied to one place becomes very difficult as they slip away at the slightest opportunity they get,” she told the Star.
Wahu said children vanish from their parents’ sight within a short period of time and finding them, especially in such a densely populated area, is a problem.
“Normally, they would be playing in this field but after most of them left, a parent wouldn’t know exactly where to find their child if they left the house.”
She also explained the challenge of homeschooling especially for the younger children who are more playful and accustomed to a certain routine.
“My son’s concentration span is about 10 minutes after which he starts whining about everything. So, when you are teaching them, you find that you have to spank them several times and you also get agitated so much that you give up,” she said.
“Also, if you use a different method or procedure from what their teacher uses, then the child gets angry and confused. Pupils tend to believe their teachers more than they do parents.”
Edited by R.Wamochie