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Adjusting to schools’ new norm

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Thousands of students across the country reported back to school last week after a nine-months break, which had been brought about by coronavirus pandemic.

The resumption of learning has re-ignited hope for thousands of students and their parents, even as they strive to catch up on the lost time.

But reporting back to school after such a long break, especially a health crisis is not a walk in the park.

The health crisis in the world has affected many people, including students in different ways.

At some point, we have all experienced anxieties, mild or severe life stresses during this pandemic.

For many children, their inner world and relationship with their environment has been destabilised hence immediate re-establishment of security and services is crucial in order to help and protect the well-being of our learners.

Additionally, parents and teachers are now struggling to ease the children back into routine and re-establishing school rules.

Balancing act

For Maggie Wakori, a mother of an 11-year old boy, Nicholas Kihara Mukei who is in Grade Four, it’s a balancing act of trying to help her child re-adjust to the normal school routine and at the same time ensuring that he remains calm and cautious of his environment and exercises all the precautionary measures that have been put in place by the government in order to curb the spread of the virus. 

“Together with his dad, we have had time to have conversations with our son on the do’s and dont’s since he resumed school.

We discuss about how his day has been and his interactions in school, whether he had his mask properly worn and if he washed his hands with soap and water.

We are also helping him to learn on how to cope in the wake of a pandemic by reading books and researching online.

All this has opened his eyes to the outside world and helped him to remain calm and cautious,” says Wakori.

As a parent, Wakori says she is focusing on building a strong sense of belonging in her son to help him cope in school even if there are a lot of things that have changed.

“There is a need for parents and teachers to create a strong sense of courage among the children so that they are confident and adjust to the new norm in school.

Creating ample short breaks in between class lessons will also help to improve their concentration and focus,” she says. 

Happy to be back

She adds: “On the other hand, children worries and concerns should be dealt with on an individual basis by identifying their weak points and strengths.

A special lesson should be introduced on how to deal, live with and overcome any pandemic that occurs now and in the future. It’s all about children keeping safe while in school.” 

For Christine Nyamoma, a mother of two boys aged 10 and seven years, it’s a different feeling altogether.

“We have not worked for close to year. We were confined to our homes. It has been a difficult moment,” she says.

She adds: “The children are excited to return to school, especially Lester, my firstborn. He is in Class Five while Luther is in Grade Two.

They both study at the same school and say staying at home had been too boring.

They say they had missed their friends and teachers and are happy to be going back to school.

But my worry is, are they wearing masks the whole day keeping in mind they are young and this month is hot,” Christine poses.  

Susan Catherine Keter, a transformational life coach says with the resumption of school, there is need for parents and teachers to cooperate (both need to communicate the same message and not contradict each other) for the well being of the learners. 

Way forward

“There are things that can be done to help learners cope/adjust to the new school routine. Blend the new routines into existing routines such as morning assembly, break time, lesson time, among others.

Also, the use of child friendly teaching methods such as posters using drawings, songs (for younger learners), child friendly signs at hand washing and sanitising stations, marking social distancing, will go a long way to help learners adjust to the new school routine,” says Keter. 

According to Keter, children pick emotions from adults around them, hence parents and teachers need to be intentional about not passing on their negative emotions to the children.

“Schools can communicate this information to parents regularly through the use of newsletters, WhatsApp groups and Zoom meetings.

Meditation and mindfulness have been tried among young learners in some parts of the world and been found to improve concentration, mental focus and behaviour. Above all, spirituality-trusting in God is important,” she says.

In summary

    • A special characteristic of schools is their ability to help students adapt to normalcy quickly.
    • Most schools offer children a predictable and familiar place of routine and clear expectations.
    • Teachers can harness this predictability. Their roles as stable and familiar people to children can be hugely important for transition and adjustment.
    • Schools should ensure that their usual mechanisms of support for children with academic issues, learning needs, stress or bullying are still in place.
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