As countries come face-to-face with the implications of mandatory lockdowns on education and school we know it, it is clear that school-going children have been heavily impacted by an unprecedented albeit necessary decision. What looked like an easy case of continuing their education over the internet quickly turned into a complicated mess.
Some parents soon realised that their jobs are not compatible with homeschooling and they had to bring in someone to help with this. Schools that had not been prepared for this reality found it hard to transition and convince parents to bear the cost of moving operations online. Parents, taken unawares like the rest of the world, began to see that they were spending more educating their children at home than they were in schools.
In the end, some parents were forced to put their children’s education on hold as they tried to come to terms with how best to handle the situation.
But even with all these, we are still not convinced that we should send our children, especially preschoolers, back to school in the wake of the government’s announcements that schools at every level may be reopening this September. In areas like Lagos state, Nigeria, which had the highest cases in the country, incidences of new Coronavirus cases have reduced drastically, and the government believes it is safe for children to return to school after 5 months of staying at home. Reports say that the virus rarely affects children, and even if they get infected, they rarely fall sick. It also says that younger children transmit it less efficiently than older adults.
All of these do nothing to quell our anxieties.
However, we know we cannot continue to neglect our children’s education due to our worries. Even they are beginning to feel restless with staying at home all day and maybe only going out at intervals to play. And if we are being honest, we may be a bit tired too.
The first step to preparing your children to return to school is to decide if it is really best for them and your family. You can choose to keep your children home until the end of the year and arrange home lessons for them based on their school’s curriculum. If this is not an option for you, however, the following steps should help you prepare your children and the rest of the family for returning to school in a world that is still dealing with the Coronavirus
Speak to your children.
You may probably have had a conversation with them about the virus. Now, you would have to explain to them how their behaviour in school has to change to fit their new reality.
Explain in age-appropriate terms the importance of handwashing, social distancing, masking up and other hygienic practices. Younger children can be made to flap their hands to measure how far apart they should be from their friends and sing a nursery rhyme while washing their hands. Let them know the difference between discrimination and keeping safe, and answer any questions they may have for you as clearly as possible.
If you are confused about how best to go about this conversation, read up on resources like this UNICEF guide.
Speak to your children’s school.
Find out what plans they have put in place to make sure that every child, teacher, and worker is safe. You may even need to visit the school on resumption day to ensure that they are doing what they say they will do. If you are not comfortable, do not hesitate to take your child back home.
Have a plan B.
This can range from a new school in the event you are not satisfied with how your children’s school is handling things, to pulling your kids out of boarding house for now or implementing hybrid schooling methods for day-school children.
Do not go back on hygienic practices at home.
Now that your children are going back to school, do not abandon all the safety measures you had put in place during the lockdown. Ensure they wash their hands before entering the house and take off their uniforms before sitting down. It would also be a good idea to include an afternoon bath in their routine for now, and avoid having them wear their uniforms more than once.
Be available to them and let them know they can talk to you always.
Even if you have children in boarding school, let the school know that you can be reached at any time if your kid falls ill suddenly. Assure your children that they can talk to you about anything, and should not hesitate to speak up if they feel funny or are being bullied in the event any member of the family was infected by the virus in the past.
Also teach them the importance of empathy in a time like this, so that they do not subconsciously become bullies out of fear or anxiety.
Finally, it is important to remember that no one decision is the best, and we can only do what we possibly can to keep our children safe in school. And one of the best ways we can do this is to ensure that we, as well as our children, are well-prepared to return back to school in a pandemic-ridden world.