COVID-19

Psychological preparation of learners before schools reopening key

In Summary

• Learners have lost the spirit for learning.

• Getting back to school will not automatically translate into learning.

Some school children from Watamu have been begging tourists for maize flour claiming lack food at home due to poverty while others demand for lunch money.
Some school children from Watamu have been begging tourists for maize flour claiming lack food at home due to poverty while others demand for lunch money.
Image: Alphonce Gari

Since President Uhuru Kenyatta ordered for the closure of schools in mid-March, learners have been at home with no learning taking place except for the lucky few with access to computers, televisions and radios.

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development came to the aid of the learners by offering digital learning via various mass media channels.

A recent report by Save the Children Foundation documents that eight in every 10 Kenyan children have learnt little since schools were closed, two thirds have had no physical or virtual contact with a teacher since March, and less than one per cent had access to internet and devices needed for digital learning.

This means that majority of the learners are engaged in other activities other than learning.

Most students at basic education levels require structure and discipline. Very few learners at this stage can study on their own without close supervision — with or without the online learning that the government and other organisations have facilitated.

Evidently, therefore, learners have lost the spirit for learning. Getting back to school will not automatically translate into learning. Getting learners to realign their minds to a possibility of resuming learning before January 2021 will arguably be a tough call. With plenty of jobs lost due to the reeling effects of Covid-19, the economic situations of most families is not pleasing, a scenario that will make it hard to return to school.

Latest economic report indicates close to 1.7 million Kenyans have probably lost their sources of income since March.

Stakeholders should think and direct their minds on two things: How to address the inertia that prolonged school closure has created in the minds of learners and nudge parents to help reorient learners to schooling before reopening is done.

Fears about Covid-19 are still rife among parents, learners and teachers. Compassionate engagement with all by the Ministry of Education and that of Health will help address these fears. The fears and anxiety are real. They will interfere with normal teaching and learning that school communities have known for years.

Schools can tap from emotional trauma counselling teachers and other experienced non-teaching staff. Teachers must strive to have a deeper understanding and empathy on learners who have been affected directly or indirectly by Covid-19.

Some private schools may not open. This means learners in these schools will have to be taken to other institutions. Some young children who will have to be transferred to public schools from private ones and they will require a lot of counselLing by their parents.

Change of school environment, teachers, disruption of established friendships and the need to strictly behave in a certain way as a new normal is detrimental to the psychological wellbeing of a learner.

Education stakeholders should ensure seamless resumption of learning by addressing the foregoing issues and many others relating to access, equity and quality of education.

Lucy Wairimu, via e-mail