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Learning amidst COVID lockdown.

In the region and the world, schools are closed, travel is restricted and the immediate future is unpredictable.  There’s no denying that life as we know it is going to be quite different for a while. We should then have to implement any changes we consider essential to us and our families’ well-being. But we’d also like to remind us that in uncertain times, a routine can be what we crave. As we all do our best to adapt to the current exceptional circumstances, it’s time to get used to a new kind of normal with the children’s best interests at heart.

It is not known how long children will be out of school, but one thing that we are sure of, children need to keep learning.

Unlike other normal holidays when parents could afford, hiring coaches, taking children for adventure, sending children for remedial teaching, at the moment it is not possible since every child and teacher or trainer is supposed to stay home.

Covid-19 is affecting all of us.  Children are now locked with parents. Some wondering how teachers do their gigs to sustain a violence-free learning environment amidst children’s noises, tantrums, cries, whimpering, nagging, and intolerance by the beloved children. Many reflect on what life would be like if children stayed home locked with them for more months. Decipherable insanity-it would be with all the clatter, patter, and litter. We are in the midst of an unprecedented global response to the severe health threat that this virus presents and as a result, there is much uncertainty about the future. 

The home should be a safe place.  But as families stay at home, children are increasingly exposed to the risk of violence/abuse-emotional abuse, sexual abuse, child labour, forced child marriage as well as neglect. There are many pressures exerted on the family as difficulties stretch through to the parents.  Regardless of or status quo, inspiration to be resilient, courageous, and pro-active to bring about a brighter future is much needed than a rigidity to the usual. These hard times should force us to adopt new behaviors and coping mechanisms as parents and to pass them to children under our care.  Its time to learn with them.

A multitude of children are already vulnerable and almost lost on how to cope with this pandemic. Many keep wondering whether things will go back to normal and what they will move ahead with. The government, the United Nations, and CSO partners are working to ensure that there is no interruption in services for at-risk/survivors of Violence Against Children and Gender-based Violence.  Organizations like Trailblazers Mentoring Foundation through its communication for development strategy is applying the social-ecological model to work with stakeholders from district, sub-county, schools, and community to ensure support and strengthen parenting.  A supportive environment for children especially adolescents is very key to upholding children’s rights as they are most susceptible as weak for frustrations accruing from fear, uncertainty, and neglect from their families.

In times such as this where Uganda is under lockdown with no school, no church/mosques, and no free movement because of the ravaging outbreak of coronavirus that parents are obliged to uphold the rights of children with an understanding of gender issues and the rights of girls. Many children especially girls in our communities are being loaded with all housework and child-rearing responsibilities leaving them with no time to play and build their social skills as would be in the child development process. I encourage parents to use this time to creatively engage children in the age appropriate responsibilities regardless of sex in order to support all children enjoy their rights.

Space for them to participate in dialogues with parents and caregivers’ decisions that affect them for example education and health.  Decision making amidst this time where contact with teachers is so limited calls for parents to bring out their teacher role vividly. Agreeing on time for housework and designating time for play, academic revisions, and skills building should be done in a friendly manner that enhances care and trust between parents and children.  It’s also appealing for children to love doing activities that they see their parents engage in.  How sweet it was to see our parents play the ball with us, make dolls and balls out of the banana fibre, going to the garden to harvest food and so much more. Parents engaging together in teaching Youngsters are in a stage where everything is done by parents, peers and trusted adults impact greatly on their character.  What they learn now is key in building future responsible citizens who can meaningfully participate in making key social and economic decisions.

Bead Handbags made by some of TMF Girls Education Club Members of Kanair Primary School, in Kotido District. These are some of the skills adolescents can learn during this lockdown.

 Every cloud has got a silver lining and so is this Covid-19 pandemic. As we look at learning, it’s not just about what children learn in class. It encompasses everything exposure to various stimuli. Child-rearing responsibilities are not limited to the family but stretched throughout the community. We need to protect and promote child development and learning. Our ancestors through uncles, aunts, and grandparents told stories, shared, narrated riddles, brainteasers, shared experiences with girls and boys to shape their future. We too can tap into their overflowing pot of wisdom alongside our reliance on supervised media which provide for knowledge acquisition through phones, radio and television messages, and the internet.  The rights of girls and boys must be protected and we are the custodians. Therefore, the need to create corridors of safety for all children-children with special needs inclusive.

Agnes Grace Nabachwa, Project Officer, Trailblazers Mentoring Foundation (TMF), Yumbe District