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Preparing children for the reopening of schools

Pupils of Kitante primary school

Pupils of Kitante primary school

Following President Yoweri Museveni’s end-of-year address to the nation, we are now at least confident that our children are reporting back to schools on January 10, 2022. 

We have had these children at home for two years and we have learners that have never stepped at school since the March 2020 closure of schools.

Some learners had just reported back to school last year and hardly after a week, there was a second wave of Covid-19 and schools were closed again. Much as there are schools that have been teaching online, the majority of the learners in the country did not get that opportunity.

We thank the government that gave a roadmap for the reopening of these schools this year. The good news that came with it was that all children should be promoted to the next class. Otherwise, there was a lot of anxiety among parents and learners on repeating classes.

We must recognize that in some families, children have already dropped out of school due to many reasons like early pregnancies and marriages; some started working and they don’t see the reason for going back to school; children outgrew in size and physique, among other reasons.

With all the time these children have been at home, some will not find it easy to adapt to the new term and the school environment. Some children, who lost their parents in the second wave as a result of Covid-19, may be traumatized.

Others who did not have an opportunity to continue with homeschooling or online learning will get promoted just to the next class but their friends who continued learning will be one or two classes ahead of them.

Such children may not quite understand why their parents did not do what others did. Again, this may cause stress and relaxation in concentration. Some parents who lost jobs may not be able to take back their children to school. These children will be at home nursing their own challenges. Some nice teachers may have moved on and may never come back to class and children will miss them.

School vans that children were used to may not be allowed on the road like before. If you don’t have a car, you will struggle with dropping and picking your children from school.

Some private schools are closed due to financial constraints and children will have to find their way in new schools. Other schools are not in good shape and learners may start with general cleanliness. The lower secondary had started on a new curriculum shortly a month before schools were closed.

Both teachers and learners will struggle with acclimatizing to new changes and getting back to class. Amidst all these challenges, the third wave is roaring around and learners may not be sure if they will not be sent home again. Schools will have to observe SOPs in order to safeguard learners from infections.

Therefore, there will be some inconveniences in school settings and rules. Nevertheless, life has to continue and our children have to resume schooling. The parents, teachers and learners have to embrace the new normal. I know well that there is no situation that is permanent.

Seasons come and go and this too will one day come to pass. We need, therefore, to prepare well our children as they report back to school and it starts with you as a parent; getting ready to handle some of the challenges highlighted above, being prepared to take back your child(ren) to school in the few remaining days, buying new uniforms and clothes, shoes, and other scholastic materials etc. Check your readiness and where to start from.

Discuss with children about their feelings on the reopening of schools

You need to take the responsibility of sitting down with your child(ren) and talk about the reopening of the schools. Ask them about their feelings and rule out any fears they have.

Some must be nervous and uncertain about the whole situation; others had given up and lost hope and some were used to online learning. This will open up a conversation and then you will be able to know the weak areas to address now and during the year to ensure that your child is at school learning comfortably.

Children have been used to the home environment, eating good food all the time, no homework, no preps, and school pressure, sleeping when they want, not waking up early, etc. Now the school-related “inconveniences” are coming back.

Both of you may feel it. But you need to talk to your children about it. Let them know that they are resuming such life, counsel and prepare them. Sit them down and tell them what they are likely to meet at school in the new normal and encourage them that they will handle the situation.

It may not seem compulsory at school, but we must caution our children to be vigilant with their health and build good habits. They must know that we are in a new normal and, therefore, they need to observe SOPs, masking up every time, washing hands with soaps and/or sanitizing as much as they can, keeping social distance, no sharing of beds, etc. Let them know that their health comes first before academics.

Enough pocket money

Schools visitations may be reduced as a measure to safeguard children from further infections. Therefore, you may need to give your child enough pocket money that will take him/her to the end of the term.

You may also need to work with the senior teachers, bursar, or administration to see how you will be sending more money if you don’t feel comfortable giving it to the child once while reporting back to school.

Pray with them

Prayer is a very strong weapon and brings great holistic healing to our lives. The day your child(ren) will be reporting back to school, sit them down and pray for them. Words alone may not be enough but when they are backed by the word of God and a prayer, a child will feel more confident to face life challenges ahead.

Vaccination against the virus

Some children may have not yet been vaccinated yet it is a requirement but also one of the safety measures against the virus. If possible, please ensure that your child is vaccinated. Schools and health centres also need to bring services near schools for those who haven’t been vaccinated to use the opportunity.

Phone calls

We may not be allowed to visit our children at school like before but no one may stop you from calling your child’s teacher or school and find out how your child is faring. Make that phone and talk to your child and give words of encouragement.

Good attitude from teachers

Our children have been used to the home environment and could have forgotten about school especially the young ones in lower primary. These learners need to be welcomed well at school daily.

The teachers’ remarks in classes, compound, break times, etc will determine a lot to how these learners will quickly adapt to school life. Teachers with negative attitude towards children have to change and exercise excellent customer care and use nice language that must make learners feel welcomed at school and easily forget about good things they have been enjoying at home.

As Israelites complained in the wilderness about things they missed like food while in Egypt, our children will at one point have such complaints in their minds. Don’t handle them harshly, understand them and give them good guidance and care.

Reduce pressure on children

Due to a lot of time that has been lost, schools may want to teach a lot to recover that time in the shortest period. Even when the end-of-term assessment has been removed by government, schools want to keep with their academic performance standards.

However, they need to know that learners can’t handle a lot of academic pressure with other challenges they are trying to handle. Teachers and schools should be very lenient to learners and give them enough breaks to relax their minds.

Guarding the young mothers against being traumatized by fellow learners

The government mentioned that girls who gave birth during this period are allowed to go back to school. It may happen that some children will get to know that this girl is now a mother and they may always mock her or abuse her emotionally.

You need to prepare your daughter to stay calm and strong, and not to be intimidated by anyone’s negative comments.

She needs to be aware that laughing at her and comments may be inevitable but she will need to be strong to the situation and know that her future is her education. It may be better for the school administrators to know about it so that if anything goes wrong, they can easily chip in to help that girl.

Reporting any case of discomfort to school administration

Our children may not only nurse the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic but also the scare of bombings to the public.

This is another threat that parents, teachers, and learners don’t have to panic. Children, therefore, need to be encouraged to report any case of sickliness or any suspicious object in the school compound, classes, etc to ensure their safety.

I wish our children all the best at school. Happy New Year 2022!

The writer is a child advocate, parenting coach, marriage counselor, and founder - Men of Purpose mentorship programme.

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