As learning moves online following the shutdown of schools to mitigate the spread of coronavirus, the challenge now is how parents are juggling working from home, teaching their children and helping them stave off boredom.
Some schools have put work online, using Edmodo or Google Classroom or similar software, where children routinely check, complete the work and have it marked. Others have virtual classes. But others have been left at the mercy of their parents to structure their learning so as not to fall off track.
Suleiman Shauri, a sociologist at Pwani University, has some simple advice for parents whose children have not been assigned schoolwork; go back to basics.
“The situation at hand compels families to go back and take up roles that squarely fell on them before modernity changed things,” he says.
Modernity and civilisation brought about differentiation of roles such that education is now handled by schools, security by the police and religion by churches.
To cope, he advises parents not to panic, but engage the children for at least five hours a day.
He says five hours of learning is ideal because a parent has to balance this with working at home.
“You can also engage the children through online learning to make it more fun and less stressful,” says Dr Shauri.
Some parents have recommended online sites such as Amazon Audible which offers free audiobooks for children as young as two to teenagers. It also has literary classics such as Romeo & Juliet and Atlas Shrugged.
There is also BrainPop, which offers animated movies on maths, science, and English.
Others such as Tynker provide coding lessons for children and Creative Bug is for craft lessons, from painting, knitting to jewellery-making and drawing.
Longhorn Publishers also has a free learning portal for both primary and secondary schoolchildren. Snapplify has over 50,000 free e-books and revision materials.
“I tried the Amazon Audible. My children listen to the audiobooks and later I ask them to write synopsis every day. It helps in their writing skills and keenness,” says Lillian Odhiambo, a mother-of-four.
Esther Maina, another parent, says her son’s school sent them apps such as Bitsboard, Book Creator, education. Com (you can use either app or website) and news-o-matic.
“News-o-matic is like an online newspaper that helps children learn what is going on in the world,” says Esther.
Let them also listen to the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) broadcasts.
For preschool-age and younger children, parents can read books interactively with their children.
Alternatively, record yourself reading your child’s favourite book and keep replaying it to him or her.
Rather than just read the text, they can point out and talk about pictures, predict what will happen next in a story and what characters feel.
“Taking walks outside (within the compound) also helps. Who says learning should only occur in the confines of a class with a teacher,” says Dr Shauri.
For older children, independent play can substitute structured school learning.