Flipside: Pandemic has made teachers in absentee parents
By Robert Wesonga | April 11th 2020
When this thing started in a little-known Chinese City of Wuhan, little did the world know that the reset button on life had been activated.
We may call it a thing because we, like the rest of the world, do not yet know enough about this Covid-19 phenomenon to be able to handle it with finality. No one would ever want to invite a calamity so that it changes things that human beings are hesitant to, but that is the reality we are in. When this thing finally peters out, the world will be staring at a new normal in many facets of life.
As researchers and world powers battle day and night to find a remedy to the pandemic, so is the Kenyan parent battling with the hitherto novel idea of homeschooling. Make no mistake; however, parents are bound to emerge out of this stronger than before. For many will confess to you, that the walls of their houses are for the first time hearing the voices of parents and their children at the same time.
And yours truly has not been left behind in this rude awakening. Rather than be in the pub on weekends with the boys, pretending to discuss the impact of the Syrian war on the world, or arguing about why Donald Trump should not be re-elected, we have now re-learned how to memorise the multiplication tables. In the process, we may have realised that our relationship with some particular subjects was not always singularly strange. We can now, for instance, point to the place where the rain started beating us.
Many of us find ourselves with an empty space into which to step and school our children, besides being parents. There is not a better way of inducting us into the rigors of managing children and their school work, than denying us the escape to ask the question we have loved to ask: Where were teachers when the students were doing that?
Education experts have written on the benefits of homeschooling to both parents and their children. They say that when it is used, parents are able to develop meaningful intimate relationships with their children, and therefore influence them without having to pass the buck onto their teachers. Again, studies also point to the benefit of parents growing with their children as they learn and re-learn some of the things.
However, the same scholars argue that homeschooling may be complicated when parents themselves are unable to teach, even though they themselves have been in school just like their children. One of the challenges parents are bound to encounter, is that the children they have been asking teachers to turn into engineers and neurosurgeons have genuine learning incapacities, the kind of which they have always blamed on teachers and the school system. The time at home with our children should give us time to figure out the solutions, and discover what our children are really capable of.
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A week after schools and educational institutions were closed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, a few parents in Mathira decided to quarantine their reasoning. They sent their children to go and attend extra teaching sessions, an act that was akin to sending them out to the risk of contracting the virus. Many commentators said the school's director had forced the parents to deliver their children for teaching. Apparently, it turns out that there is somebody so powerful they can prevail on parents to carry their children, and of their own free will, deposit them in a lion's den.
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- Dr. Wesonga is a lecturer in Literature at University of Kabianga Kericho
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