By Joseph Inangut
(Senior Teacher at Kongunga High/Bukedea Comprehensive School)
The question whether to send children back to school is one thing that is wracking everyone’s brain right now. As a teacher and parent at the same time, I find myself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.
The lock down has turned out to be too long and more of a nightmare to many of us who plied our trade in teaching. The days have proven longer than the usual twenty four hours. Waking up in the morning and having nothing to do the whole day apart from sitting and channel surfing on TV is one tedious task. It makes one highly irritable and one tends to notice too many “errors” in the home.
As teachers, we have always noticed that whenever students return from the short term holidays, they tend to be slow and the mood to learn needs to be restarted. This normally takes two weeks for the children to be fully reinstated to the academic mood. Come to think of the several months of the lock down, what will it take to restart the students? Such a fear gives me the need to have these children back at school, more especially the candidates who have to face final exams.
Pragmatically, going to school every morning is what assured every teacher of some sugar for the children at home. Teachers country-wide are facing economic hardships since there is no income. Even those on government payroll are not having an easy ride. Most of their salary goes to pay loans. They have been depending on the private teaching (part-timing) for survival.
Every teacher will agree with me that interacting with our students helps us keep alert and updated. One has to prepare for the lesson which prompts a person to read. In the course of the day, one handles a number of students’ issues ranging from academic to social. Sometimes they even handle their family problems. In handling them, your own problems are purged as you tend to identify with the problem. This helps one to maintain his/her own sanity. A professional teacher certainly misses his students.
As a parent, the task of containing the children at home has turned out to be an uphill. After the initial weeks of lockdown, the children have got tired of home and have become restless. The prospect of going back to school and facing exams is no more. They are no longer under any form of pressure to read. This has turned out to be a big challenge to many parents.
Moreover, many parents are busy looking for money and do not have time at home to supervise the activities of their children. This has left many children prone to negative peer influence leading to increased cases of drug abuse, teenage pregnancies, delinquency and early marriages. The prolonged lockdown will see very many students having to drop out of school next year.
This pandemic has also exposed the fact that there are parents who do not know parenting. They have been dependent on the teachers at school to counsel, guide and reprimand the children. While teaching in a boarding school, we used to receive complaints from parents about the misdemeanors of “our” children at home. Some parents would even demand that we punish the child for a crime committed at home. Children of such parents are definitely at a big loss in this lockdown.
However, is the risk to re-open schools worth taking?
We have a surge in the number of positive cases in the country today. It is evident that there is now community transmission, and many victims are asymptomatic. The real number of cases might be triple the number we have on record. Schools can turn out to be incendiary hotspots for the virus transmission.
Besides, the rate of testing is both low and slow. The ministry of health is currently testing a few people per day and the results take days to return. This makes it difficult to accurately monitor the disease and isolate the victims. Often times, by the time the results confirm a case, he will have interacted with many.
There is also clear evidence that people are not adherent to the standard operating procedures as laid out by the ministry of health. It is even more difficult to implement them when it comes to many students in a school. We might witness an explosion of the virus forcing the government to another national lockdown. This will be a double loss to the parents since they did not get their money’s worth in the first term.
Most importantly, the disease has now become fatal. We are now experiencing two to three deaths per day. Isn’t that enough to scare even the most hardened of hearts? Our hospital facilities are not well prepared for an explosion of the disease.
In my opinion, a lost academic year can be compensated. A derailed child can be rehabilitated and a pregnant girl can be taken back to school after delivery. But a dead child is lost forever. Before a vaccine or a treatment for the disease is found, I would rather wait with my children at home.
Life is more precious and has no spare.
DISCLAIMER: The views expressed in this opinion are not necessarily of this website- ED