Covid-19 has displaced learners from usual classrooms due to the high risk of transmission. In addition to the displacement of learners and educators from their institutions, it has placed the burden and responsibility of instruction to the learners, parents and families without advance warning or preparation.
The Ministry of Education had initially proposed distance learning as a solution for continued learning. However, widespread public outcry prompted the Ministry to downgrade the proposal to a mere stop-gap measure towards the current crisis.
The continued lack of access to educational content is due to challenges with access to mediated instructional resources such as internet, radio or television. Students rely on these resources to access content developed by Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), Longhorn Learning and institutions.
Beyond access to these products and digital content, is the real topic about quality instruction. Ideally, in a successful learning context, parents and families should be a part of the equation, actively participating and collaborating with educators to ensure that learners are making progress and meeting their learning goals.
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Success with all learning hinges on a myriad of variables. In the current scenario, parents and families face the reality of educating their children at home. This responsibility is quite a feat, especially because parents face the burden of demonstrating proficiency across subject levels and across grade levels.
One challenge, in this case, lies in the professional qualifications required for parents and families as they guide and support their children with their learning. For parents who are educators by profession, providing instruction to students at home might seem slightly less overwhelming, yet the reality of this challenge is compounded by the suitability of the home as a learning environment, skills needed to deliver instruction using technology, and the parents’ work demands.
Additionally, even for educational experts, the internet provides a plethora of educational products that are overwhelming and difficult to parse for quality and appropriateness. Furthermore, the online environment poses certain risks such as cyberbullying and access to inappropriate content.
Therefore, in addition to providing some type of instruction and practice opportunities, it is imperative for parents to prioritise digital safety for their learners, especially young learners and build in breaks away from the screen. Too much screen time contributes to overstimulation and eye strain amongst other effects.
Compounding these challenges, most parents and families will likely face the obvious differences between the classroom and the home as learning environments. Children may be accustomed to different expectations at home and at school, causing conflicts and confusion. Further, the home is not structured and does not function as a classroom. Consequently, learners might face further challenges of accessing a quiet space, appropriate lighting and necessary supplies for learning.
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Together with navigating these novel forms of learning and embracing the challenges, they bring; some learners might experience undue stress from the disruption that has interrupted preparation for the national exams.
The monumental significance accorded to these examinations coupled with inadequate preparation is placing candidates under undue pressure.
It is important for parents and families to provide emotional support and encourage their children to continue revising their notes and collaborating with their peers.
What should learners do in the meantime before schools re-open? With all the push for technological solutions, parents and students can still continue engaging with other learning materials, including textbooks, revise areas already covered and engage families and parents in discussions.
Learners can also exploit learning opportunities offered by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) to keep up with learning and practising earlier learned skills. It is also important for parents to help children develop a daily routine of reading a variety of literature to enhance their reading, writing and critical thinking skills.
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In the spirit of the Competency-Based Curriculum, learners can participate in learning activities that go beyond worksheet completion and drill and practice to include activities and conversations on topics such as good citizenship, climate change, environmental sustainability and civics.
Developing culinary skills or engaging in apprenticeship activities at home can also prove useful to students who often spend the bulk of their school time indoors under rigid schedules. These activities provide the benefit of reduced screen time for students and could potentially promote inspiration and creativity.
The pandemic has forced parents and families to take the centre stage in their children’s learning as a result of school closures and extended school vacation. The Ministry of Education in conjunction with KICD has provided learners with educational programming and materials to allow distance learning.
Although these products provide a few parents with learning materials, more focus and attention have to be provided for students locked out of distance learning. Neglecting the large population of learners and postponing solutions only serve to undermine the gains of affirmative action in the field of education.
Furthermore, most parents and families are faced with the need to learn the content alongside their children in order to provide them with some kind of support. In spite of the impact of Covid-19 on education, parents and families should support, encourage their children to keep up their reading practices and look for additional learning opportunities that may spark creativity and inspiration.
-Dr Elisheba Kiru is a researcher with ACAL's Covid-19 Thinktank