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Lights out in schools for safety

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… how to sustain children continue their learning process

NEARLY 300 million children are out of school due to the emergence of this pandemic disease called Coronavirus (COVID 19); with countries like Nigeria, Japan, Italy, and Iran shutting down their entire school systems in a bid to stop the spread and transmission of this virus, while governments and healthcare systems cope with an influx of new cases.

This has not been easy for most parents on their own part in trying to figure out how to support their children’s academic work while keeping everyone in the household sane.

In addition to sharing space with their parents, the kids are battling with isolation from peers, a frustration with being cooped up, and a sense that there is no end in sight.

  Unfortunately, the Coronavirus pandemic has grown at such a pace that the world has been forced to cancel most public events where this virus can spread.

So it is not out of place for parents to feel a little overwhelmed and much struggle on how to keep up with the ever-growing list of cancellations, closures and other news surrounding the novel coronavirus, coupled with the fact that most of their wards are in their exam classes.

As a result of this unexpected break, most parents are left in a confused state on  how to help their children, especially those in their examination classes to continue their normal learning processes in a situation where all academic outlets, including all other extracurricular activities are pending.

  Mrs Augusta Ibeabuchi, a teacher and a mother of three said, “The most important topic right now is how to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

As parents, if we don’t take it seriously and curb face-to-face interactions, we defeat the purpose of closing schools and workplaces. So, as households begin this forced experiment in enclosed living, parents are stressed, whether worrying about their kids losing learning time, or high-stakes exams that may or may not take place, or how to facilitate their children’s learning at home.

Amid these crises, it is important to set a clear routine, particularly for younger children – such as a couple of hours of school work in the morning or a specified time for craft work in the afternoon.

The goal is not for children to keep learning new topics as they would if it were regular school days, but rather to ensure they can pick back up where classes left off when they eventually return to the classrooms.

What I am saying is that parents should find a way to continue the learning process while the children are at home, and this could take a lot of different forms, and it will vary considerably. As a teacher, I know the importance of establishing routines for children.

 “Routines provide structure and a sense of safety, which helps children to be ready to learn and take intellectual risks. Have them get up at the same time Monday to Friday, and maintain a reasonable bedtime.

Set a schedule for reading, including mathematics and other subjects, when they will have free time, meals and physical activities.

Parents should play with these children and encourage those of an adventurous nature to regard the situation as an “adventure”.

This approach won’t work for the more sensitive children who will need extra reassurance. A balance has to be struck between mental and physical health, therefore, parents should build in breaks, because sitting and working for three hours in a row isn’t a recipe for success for most children.

Although many kids will need to spend some time on screens (computers and laptops) to complete their works, parents should try to limit exposure where they can, even though this could be a battle. Again, this is the time to continue to remind them to wash their hands, not to pick their noses, and avoid touching faces.

It’s totally understandable that kids will swear up and down that they won’t touch each other, but, then you see them sharing a lollipop, don’t go fear mongering but make them understand the importance of keeping the stipulated distances and sanitization.

  “Now that internal and external exams have been postponed indefinitely, parents even have greater work for the teenage ones who are due for their WAEC, NECO and other A-level exams, because this sudden suspension of exams has demoralised most of these students who have almost concluded the necessary preparations (both physically and mentally) for their exams and are now worried if the exams will hold at a future date.

While some of them are wondering how they will get their certificates in no distant time. Hence, parents are advised to find out if there are opportunities for their children to study online from home.

They should not just ensure that their children and wards register for the appropriate online courses but also make sure that they attend the online classes.

This will not in any way be compared to the physical classes that the children are used to, but it will go a long way to help keep them on track pending when the school eventually re-opens. Also, this is a time when all manner of prayers are needed most.

Parents should pray that this crisis will be over in no distance time, so that the children will go back to school and everybody returns to his or her normal life”.

  Also, airing his own view on how students are coping now that they are not just on compulsory holidays, but are expected to abstain from all outdoors activities including holiday lessons, Master Onyegbunam Jasper, a third year student in the department of Public Relations in University of Nigeria, Nsukka, said, “shutting down of schools nationwide is a smart decision for sure.

If students remain in school, the management will have to create a rigid system of movement control, which can’t be 100% effective. And if the virus should enter the school, it will spread like wildfire because of the ways students interact. Besides, people can take care of themselves better at home. I expect the school to be closed for as long as the coronavirus outbreak is a threat.

 The only fear I have is that this break will affect the results of students when schools eventually reopen because the calendars will be altered and students will have a hard time easing into academics.

Online classes will be good right now, but I doubt if it will work because a lot of lecturers and even some students have no idea how it works.

As for me, I brought my books home with the intention of studying, we will see how that goes. The most important thing to do now is to stay safe and be productive”.

  Miss Stephanie Egwuonwu, an S.S.2 student on her own part said, “I am sad that they have to close the school. In my own school, when the first case of coronavirus in Nigeria was confirmed, the school management banned anyone from entering or leaving the school premises, because we are all boarding students and they tried to push up the exams.

 Unfortunately, the whole thing escalated and they had no choice but to ask everyone to go home. I’m not happy about it but I understand. The school is working on setting up online classes. They’ve sent us an email, informing us to sign up on the platforms.

That’s a good alternative, but it can’t replace physical classes due to a lot of factors. I fear that the schools could remain closed for up to six months, and that will mess a lot of things up. It may affect my graduation date, which will be weird because it has never happened in the history of the school.

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