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Long break for learners brings back memories of bad habits

EDUCATION
By Augustine Oduor | April 19th 2021

Parents are worried that another extended stay at home for learners may bring back old habits acquired during last year’s prolonged closure.

They fear the three-month wait before students join Form One could result in drug and substance abuse, and pregnancies. 

Education stakeholders said candidates who did not post good grades and those from poor backgrounds might also opt to drop out of school.

But counselling psychologists are pleading with parents to use the lessons learnt from last year to get the best out of the long holiday. Under the revised education calendar, all learners, except those in Grade 4 and the prospective Form One, will open schools on May 10.

Grade Four learners have completed their academic year, while the KCPE candidates will join Form One in July, when the 2021 academic calendar starts.

During the break, they will be joined by Form Four students who are currently sitting national examinations.

Rose Atieno Opiyo, a child and adolescent psychologist, and mental health expert, said that while the school holidays make great sense, they can be tricky if they are longer than expected, especially in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The imminent social mixing of students (young and old) for longer periods without parental guidance needs to be re-examined. As much as it may create affordances for peer learning, most of the opportunities are likely to lead to destructive activities,” said Dr Opiyo, who is also a senior lecturer at Masinde Muliro University of Science and Technology.

She said today children live in a “technologically overloaded world”, which means there will be greater chances of deviating from constructive activities while the parents are away.

Academic growth

“This will be dangerous for the academic growth of our children. Critical academic skills need daily repetition, which modern parents may not be able to consistently carry out and/or monitor, given the Covid-19-induced work demands as well as economic pressures.”

Opiyo said after the long holiday, much effort and time will be needed to bring children back to pre-school break pathways. “This will definitely be quite costly if we do not mitigate effects now.”

Parents’ fear is based on the many cases of indiscipline recorded in schools after they reopened to salvage the academic year. The ugly scenes of students attacking their teachers were a clear manifestation of the bad manners learners picked up during the long break.

Education experts yesterday said more cases of indiscipline would be recorded if a multi-sectoral agency approach on mental health and psycho-social support is not adopted immediately.

Wesaya Maina, an education expert, said the mental health of learners was ignored last year in the return-to-school strategy, throwing institution managers into a spin. “Parenting is as individual as it is societal. We need to do our part as the school calendar is adjusted.”

Alternative Provision of Basic Education and Training Complimentary Schools’ Association national organising secretary Paul Wanjohi said the long stay at home “is the elephant in the room”.

“What most parents are talking about now is what to do with the children over this long period. Form Fours are back home and the Class Eight candidates are also home,” said Mr Wanjohi.

He said education stakeholders must craft a home-grown solution to the imminent changes. “It is important that something is put together to teach these children life skills, career guidance, value of work and even just good manners.”

Wanjohi said community-based learning would have been ideal if it was fully implemented as had been suggested. “These children must be engaged positively because they will be idle and it is a bad mixture that must be monitored.”

National Parents Association national chairman Nicholas Maiyo said plans were at an advanced stage to roll out online career guidance lessons for learners who will be at home.

“We are signing some agreement with the College of Career Guidance and Development in conjunction with other partners who will roll out online lessons that will keep learners busy,” said Mr Maiyo.

He said Form Four leavers were of interest because they would be required to revise universities’ courses. “We know that only 17 per cent may get university slots, and the remaining 83 per cent may have to get alternative courses.”

Maiyo, however, said it was the responsibility of parents to know what their children get up to. “We cannot delegate parenting. Parents will play a major role during the period. What we are doing is only to see how else we can engage the learners positively.”

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