Over a week ago when President Museveni gave a directive to have all schools closed, a video of an excited school boy thanking the President for the closure made rounds on social media. And though the closure of schools was handled with mixed feelings by different students, to Mariam Nabukenya, a student of Seeta High School, it was hard news to receive.
“We were just in the middle of the term, very well concentrated on studying, and actively preparing for the national examinations. Now with the pandemic and no one sure when it will be over, I keep imagining all the things we would have been able to cover if everything was normal,” the Senior Six student sadly points out.
But it is not only Nabukenya with such thoughts. Parents, schools and some students hold similar concerns on how they can stay academically engaged at such a time when social distancing is being emphasized as a major preventative measure to the deadly coronavirus disease.
Like never before, students/ learners are getting more engaged in their learning, with very limited teacher contribution.
“In my neighbourhood, this is what one of my neighbour’s son does with three of his schoolmates. They use the garage as a place to do their reading. Each of the four boys seats in their own corner of the big garage and has discussions. They read their books, go through past papers and brainstorm,” Shamila Namuyiga shares.
Such personal interactions however are favourable when there is sufficient space to keep distance from one learner to another.
Alternatively, Nabukenya shares that with her six other friends, they have created a WhatsApp group that is strictly for revision and academic discussion purposes.
“This does not require us to leave our homes, and we do not have to worry about the spread because we are doing it virtually. On our plat foam, we post topics to be discussed and we can use typed messages or voice notes to discuss. We also give each other assignments and everyone evaluates the other by sharing assignments across,” she explains. This, she says has so far proved effective on keeping them academically engaged.
Furthermore, some students find personal reading and revision more beneficial for them. John Baptist Mugerwa, a senior three student of Standard High School, Zana shares that this is how he keeps academically engaged.
“I have a timetable that I stick to. I handle two subjects every day, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. After doing some housework in the morning, at 9am, I enter my bedroom and read my books. I also use textbooks to read about some topics, especially those they hadn’t taught us,” Mugerwa says.
In the afternoon, after having lunch, he then studies another subject as indicated by his reading timetable. He further adds, “I don’t want to be tempted to watch television, so I stay away from it until I finish reading at 4pm. This has helped me cover some topics they hadn’t even taught at school.”
Help of parents
However, for students/ pupils who do not have personal initiative, parents can step up to help.
“There is only a small number of parents who get actively engaged in the teaching and learning process of their children. However, now that it is majorly parents who have access to their children and in absence of teachers, there is a lot parents can do,” Moses Mubiru, a father says.
To Mubiru, home schooling is the path he has taken to keep his Primary Three, Five and Six children engaged.
“When they got back home, I had to go through their books and see what they had covered. I also had to get in contact with their respective teachers and find out what topics they had to cover during this term. After getting all this information, I had to go back and do a lot of reading about the same topics and since I am not a professional teacher, I also had to educate myself about how, as a parent, I could effectively teach my children,” he explains.
Good enough, Mubiru also has to stay home from his work and this has allowed him time to do home schooling for his three children.
“I make sure that I at least give an hour of teaching to the one in Primary Three, and two hours each for the two in Primary Five and Six. The children also help me to teach each other. For example the one in Primary Six can help his siblings in lower classes,” he notes.
On the other hand, you might not be as vigilant as Mubiru, but there is something you can do as a parent.
Prosy Achieng, a teacher says that parents can also help their children keep learning this time by overseeing and supervising their learning.
“If the school gave the learner some work to do, follow up as a parent to make sure that the child does the work. You can also limit the time they spend doing other things like watching television so that they engage in other educative activities,” she advises.
In the event that the school didn’t give the learners any work to do during the lock down, as a parent, you can buy past papers.
exercise booklets, holiday packages, text books which are readily available on the market and have them engaged in something educational, the teacher further advises.
Additionally, parents can keep their children academically engaged by engaging them in educative activities and practical skills.
“They can for example teach them how to cook, give them story books to read, after which questions can be asked by the parent. For children with talents like art, having them paint or draw can prove very useful.
For younger learners, teaching them rhymes, songs, words, spellings, teaching them how to write, count or naming colours can be of benefit, Achieng tips parents.
Schools keeping relevant
In the same vein, schools are also trying to keep relevant and their students engaged.
With the current social distancing and total lack of contact to students, schools like Greenhill Academy have employed technology. On the school website is a portal secured with a password and the student ID number so that it is only the learner who is part of the school that can access the portal.
“We also gave logins to each parent and so the school uploads work on the website and the parent/ learner is able to download it from there. Every time we upload work, the parents are given a notification through the school application,” Irene Esther Mutuzo the spokesperson of the school shared.
The uploaded work includes notes for the different classes as well as exercises which will be returned to school when it finally opens again.
“We came up with this to allow parents access to work remotely and to give pupils time to complete weekly work as our normal schedule is,” she noted.
Additionally, some schools have come up with school applications to help them extend the teaching and learning process to learners, others use WhatsApp groups to share work, while some have virtual classes running in addition to other online resources.
On the other hand, some schools are working with materials such as holiday packages.
By and large, with joint efforts, it is possible even in this dire situation to keep learning.