PARENT AND TEACHER

Parents forced to play dual role

Protecting children from pornography and cyberbullying is one more worry.

In Summary
  • Many parents are revising with their children and downloading exercises shared by some schools, all in an effort to keep the children engaged.
  • Since most parents are not teachers, the possibility of making errors is high.

Learning institutions have been under lock and key since March 15, 2020, shortly after the first case of Covid-19 was reported in the country. Kenya was taking a cue from other nations that had been hard hit by the pandemic. Shut down schools, ban flights plus control entry and exit of foreigners along common borders.

The initial worry following the closure of schools was how to engage learners in pre-primary. This group of learners is the hardest hit by the consequences brought by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Ministry of Education was quick to direct parents and schools to online learning. The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development moved with speed to avail radio and TV programmes for all categories of learners, and especially those in Early Childhood Development and Education centres through Edu TV. The curriculum developers also worked with counties to tailor radio and TV programmers to suit early learners in their respective areas.

The initial excitement elicited by the push for remote learning has slowly fizzled out after it was noted that the ongoing online learning programme has little impact on syllabus coverage, since it is not accessible to all learners.

Surveys carried out on e-learning noted that the remote learning programme had marginalised the urban poor, rural populations and those in hardship areas, with a mere 22 per cent Kenyans getting access to this platform.

The surveys indicated that most of this population do not have smartphones, TV or radio, while those with a smartphone have only one which is shared between several members of the family, making it impractical for learners to have access to the phone. 

For the early learners in ECDE, the challenges were even bigger and demanding given their age and concentration span. Some of the hurdles that early learners faced included not accessing learning due to lack of teacher-learners contact, which is essential for clarification of learners’ issues. Some counties like Makueni have taken the bold step of working with local radios to offer classes to ECDE learners.

For counties in northern Kenya, particularly Mandera and Wajir, the Covid-19 pandemic could not have come at a worse time. From the beginning of the year the schools were either closed or did not have teachers following mass transfers due to terror attacks. The closure of schools exacerbated the problem.

Studies have shown investing in early childhood education delivers significant economic returns. Investments in every sector of early childhood services have been shown time and again to yield significant economic returns, resulting in gains for families, communities and economies. In Sub-Saharan Africa it has been estimated that every dollar spent towards tripling pre-primary education enrolment would yield a $33 (Sh3,552) return.

Middle-income and poor Kenyan families have been the most devastated by the pandemic. Majority have either lost businesses or jobs, and incomes have been depleted.

While some parents can afford to pay for remote learning, the reality is most have been forced to take up the responsibility of teachers and are drawing up learning schedules for their children.

Parents have been forced to buy extra learning material to keep their children engaged, a tall order given the concentration span of ECDE learners is a mere 30 minutes.

Many parents are revising with their children and downloading exercises shared by some schools, all in an effort to keep the children engaged. Since most parents are not teachers, the possibility of making errors is high.

Protecting children from pornography and cyberbullying is one more worry. Besides passing knowledge, parents also have to ensure their children eat a balanced diet and exercise. In urban areas, it is not strange to now find some parents dragging their little ones along for a jog or a walk to keep fit.

With schools now set to reopen in January 2021, parents have no choice but to play the dual role of teacher and parent to keep their children from mischief and Covid-19. They can only take consolation in the words of Education CS George Magoha that children are safer at home than in school.