By Bidemi Nelson
The global closure of schools in the wake of the Corona Virus pandemic was an obvious safety call. However, the level of preparedness required for such a call is obviously missing. It is common knowledge that many children who are at home now, have no learning materials as their books, textbooks and other learning aids are largely at school. To compound matters, movement has been restricted in many places and private-lessons’ teachers cannot readily be hired now. Worsening all of these is that many of these children’s parents and caregivers have no clue on how to teach or assess actual learning at home. With an already ailing educational system, the disruption of learning as we know it and the large absence of innovation in educational provision, the future narrative is likely going to be that there will be a lot of re-work upon school resumption such as re-teaching, re-assessments and re-adjustments with respect to the curriculum and the school calendar. Children evidently, will be at the receiving end of the brunt.
With the timeline of measures meant to fight the Covid-19 pandemic being uncertain including several lockdowns, it is important to be proactive as parents or caregivers in preventing our children from suffering any educational rust. For starters, it is important for parents and caregivers to treat this period as a short holiday. Communicate this to children so as not to scare them about the pandemic. Try to keep yourself and other family members safe by following health and government guidelines. This will reassure children that everything is under control.
At this time, parents should consider having a study area for children at home. If your home is not large, you can use the living room while switching off devices like phones, radios and televisions. Ensure that the study area has comfortable tables and chairs for writing. It should also be well illuminated and ventilated.
You might also need to mimic school time table but can make it fun by incorporating academic and non-academic work such as religious lessons, gardening, games, simple exercises, drama, dance and dress-ups, among others. Motivating children is important. Stationeries such as new pencils can do wonders. You may need to research school curriculum online or use the lessons of their old note books and text books in getting topics to teach them. Ask questions to know topics they don’t understand too well. Also, remember children have a lot of faith in their teachers so they might question your methods. Please allow them communicate whatever they have in mind, no matter how incredulous it may sound. In addition, use any teaching aid at your disposal such as the internet.
For parents and caregivers that are still challenged about teaching their children, you can improvise. For instance, explore children’s love for cartoons to help them learn new words. Instruct them to write new words or concepts from these cartoons in a notebook with the implication that if they don’t have the “Cartoon Notebook”, they are not permitted to watch cartoons. It is also important to sieve the cartoons that children watch and ensure that at least 80% of them are educational and entertaining rather than just entertaining. Consider cartoons that teach about animals or problem-solving using mathematics or science.
It is important to know that the best form of teaching for children is teaching curiosity and their role in solving the problems that come from their curiosity. Try using newspapers or television/radio news content to talk about local and global issues, while brainstorming on how they can be resolved. Ensure whenever you are teaching your children, your interaction is face-to-face. Try not to be distracted and don’t distract them also, by sending them on errands during teaching sessions, for instance. Teaching is serious business so it must come with rewards for you and them when your objectives are met. For children, reward them for keeping to their timetables, coming up with solutions or even doing good presentations on the lessons you have taught them. Also reward them for non-academic work such as artwork, commitment to gardening and even newly learnt dance steps.
Here are a couple of DON’T(S) for parents and caregivers at this time and other holiday periods. Do not let children watch television all through the day and when they do, monitor what they watch while frequently using “Parental Guidance” restrictions. Second, don’t allow children play games or stay on the internet especially during mornings and early afternoon times. They can learn a lot during these periods. Third, don’t let children be on the internet unsupervised. If they must use the internet, it must be in the public view of family members. Don’t forget to teach internet safety tips. Please don’t neglect your children. Child neglect is a form of child abuse.
*** Bidemi Nelson is the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Shield of Innocence Initiative, Ibadan