When all schools closed in mid-March, most parents thought that the ‘stay-at-home’ would last six weeks.
“I thought of it like the Ministry (of Education) has brought the April holidays for the kids forward by two weeks,” says Emma Makena, a mother of two boys aged seven and 10.
There may still be the ghost of a chance that schools could re-open on the Monday of May 4.
But parents best be prepared for the worst case scenario – that second term could be cancelled altogether. This means September would be when the 2020 school year continues!
In such a scenario, then by default, parents all become home schoolers, unless they are prepared to let their children’s minds stall, as the children run wild (of course within the strait-jackets of the Covid-19 confinement).
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Covid 19 Time Series
What type of weekday timetable would/can be deployed, in matters of literature and learning?
When we were growing up, we sometimes used to have radio lessons in the classroom twice or thrice a week, courtesy of the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
Radio lessons still in place, especially from the national broadcaster.
It is up to parents to find out which ones are appropriate and tailor-made for their children, and ensure they tune into them at the apt time, promptly.
For the weekends, for older children, there is the long-running ‘Books Café’ (hosted by Khainga Okembwa) on Saturday afternoons.
(ii) Work books
Just because schools are not operating does not mean we are now in a stage that the classic rock icon Alice Cooper sang about as “school’s out for summer, school is out forever” because of this pandemic.
There are still all the textbooks that you bought for the child at the start of the term.
It is up to you to call their class teacher and meticulously find out where they would be, in each, and every subject, if they were in school.
It is up to you and the child to then stay up to speed with this home-based academic programme till schools re-open.
(iii) Online learning
Oxford University Press, according to its regional General Manager John Mwazemba, has made all its global online learning free for all, during this period of Covid-19 crisis. Locally, Longhorn Publishers followed suit and done the same thing too.
For folks with a child in primary school, there is the Common Schools Summative Assessment -- available online, and now much shared in sensible WhatsApp groups, as opposed to just silly Covid-19 memes.
What we are doing (with the CSSA) with my eight-year-old daughter is CRE on Sundays, science & technology on Mondays, agriculture on Tuesdays, Kiswahili on Wednesdays, mathematics on Thursdays, Home Science on Fridays and English on Saturday mornings, as a routine.
As for the competence-based curriculum (CBC) practicals, currently teaching the kids about coronavirus, to wash hands and ‘social distance’, is enough.
(iv) Creative reading
After tea in the afternoon, say sweet strungi at 4pm, an hour should be set aside for creative reading, and by that I mean good old-fashioned story books that stimulate the mind of the child. Video games may stimulate the mind too, granted, but they add zero to the building blocks of your child’s imagination.
In addition to as many local children’s writers you can find (and for high school children, that would mean all 15 of the Young Adult Burt Award winning novellas that were published between 2013 and 2017), I would put all political propriety aside, and recommend the books of Enid Blyton (for Standard One to Three), Chronicles of Narnia (Standard Four to Six) and the Harry Potter series (Standard Seven and Eight).
(v) Family game time
With self-isolation now de rigeur, this is the time, maybe between 8pm and 9pm, to discover some fun family games that actually help as brain food, not just for the children, but for rusty adult minds as well.
Nowadays, it is not uncommon to find the following scene in an urban middle class sitting room. Man seated on the couch flipping through TV channels. Wife seated beside him, totally immersed with her smartphone. Boy lying on the carpet in front, playing some video game. Daughter at the corner of the living room, headphones on, listening to music on YouTube. This is the modern set of a detached family unit.
Why not play old-fashioned board games like Scrabble or Monopoly together, in this time of Covid-19 crisis?
(vi) World reader
I was speaking to Joan Mwachi, the Regional Director of the app ‘World Reader’ that delivers literary content to mostly younger readers across the planet, and one can now download it, free of charge.
On Smartphones, you go to www.booksmart.com, or if you are on android, to bit.ly/ea_booksmart.
- Tony Mochama is a three time Burt Award winner for his YA novellas in 2013, 2015 and 2017.