It’s almost 7 am I’ve stepped out. One I need to use some facilities, two I’m hungry and I need one or two ingredients not in our pantry so I could fix up something real quick. Three, besides the early chirping birds, the wonderful people who make sure we are not overflowing with garbage in the compound – talk about essential services.
We’ve got three people outside kneading mandazis because yes food is essential. We must live and bills must be paid. There are also those who believe in early morning runs so they somewhere counting their steps, beating yesterday’s record and then there’s me.
The one who decides when it’s day, night, morning e.t.c if you catch my drift 7 am in my world, could just as well be time for bed. The sun and it’s rising beauty hopefully spanning a lovely array of colors that will inspire my dreams for this day. It’s the freelancer’s and time shifter’s world. Even my neighbors know and respect this. Should they by any miracle see me outside anywhere between before noon, I’ll be asked what’s up or if perhaps I’ve got a meeting in town that I need to be early for? You know beat traffic and all that.
It’s Monday. This is May. The year is 2020 and it’s the second week of the month. If things were ‘normal’ whatever normal is for you a time like this would have children who go to the same school calling out to each other to hurry up and get going. Maybe hurried and panicked questions over unfinished homework and that mean teacher, plan their excuse as well as share their preference of what subjects should be double at what time in the day and by which teacher.
Mothers, fathers, and nannies trying to do a quick once over and ensure the lunch boxes are packed. Maybe a bus hooting to get the kids to hurry because it’s the last trip. The first trip probably carried children that were still half asleep and yet to fully wake up from. It’s probably a dream within another dream so they’ve got several waking ups to do before they actually catch up for the day.
School opening has been extended indefinitely because of what’s appeared to be a global health concern. This also being week two, children would have maybe already sat their opening exams, about to or they are being pulled out of class and handed letters to take home and request parents and guardians to pay up. If you were in my high school that meant extended ‘holiday’ but deep down for all the students it was painful and a walk you didn’t want to be part of even if it was looking like the entire school was going home.
Today, however, it’s quiet. There’s a new sheriff in town called ‘Rona’ lots been said about him/her/it pick your pronoun. Right now, a lot of things seem to be hanging on a balance. Long air of uncertainty everyone is catching it even children feel uncertain. Being home isn’t exactly fun because school brought a certain routine but on the other hand, they finally get to see the parents more frequently.
Before long holidays would have parents sighing that food will finish, trouble, someone to watch over them, schools should open. Then they only signed the homework books ofcoz unless you are ’CBC’ parent now you probably do the homework as well. Woe unto you if you didn’t get the opportunity to be in school and comprehend half what’s being taught now. The very things you are shaking Heaven and Earth for so your child can have better opportunities maybe.
Woe unto you if you get home and you are being requested for someone colored printed image at 9 pm you just got home it’s been a rough day and the closest cyber closed at 7 pm. Should I mention perhaps you don’t even own an email address why should you and you get paid by mobile money? The money that provides for this school going child right?
This time no wondering when school opens because it’s survival first. While some wonder if and when the curriculum will be done or if and when exams will be done. Some pressing issues face these children like the fact that their parents already got a pay slash, or on indefinite unpaid leave, maybe were even unemployed before or work as online freelancers who by the way get better work when the rest of the world is actually out and about rather than sheltered in. The kids are in fear of catching Rona, and those I’ve heard asking each other if they’ve heard which school is likely a quarantine center.
These kids, their biggest issue has shifted from unfinished homework, the likely punishment, getting to their favorite seats in the bus or route home, class gossips to the basic needs. The real things no one thinks about when factoring the general academic performance of children. The things that eat into their physical, emotional, social, spiritual, and psychological well being.
A time like this you don’t even know if you’ll ever grow and be the hero you want to be for your family. Yes, school gives them an acceptable distraction from the things they face at home. The stuff nobody has time for because cramming textbook answers and past-past papers to appear smart is more important than learning and mastering the art and skills to design solutions. That final condemning grade, unfortunately, forgets this child is human and faces life too. This child needs to learn how to address and speak about life wholesome and find creative solutions that would give them a better life quality and should I add grading.
Online learning. Sounds fancy. Maybe even convenient but for who what ages and where from? Do they have access to the life basics before we go to tech basics? What percentage is given online what percentage off? How about children with special needs? How do we track effectiveness or feedback? Children, many of who don’t even have a birth certificate the guardian or parent has no ID. I’m not sure having an email to even register for one of these apps is a priority or even a thing they understand. Many of these started looking for birth certificates not so long ago and it probably has half information or just whatever guardian or parent could remember.
Even in urban areas, one would be so surprised. I once did an evaluation somewhere where kids were exposed to urban life. Part of the questions required me to know their age. A good number only knew what class they were in. So you had to guess the rest. If you got a year you’d be lucky. Sometimes you got a date and month but if you ran an endline survey on the same child those dates might be different. What mattered to them is they could play in a safe place, hopefully, go home to a safe place, have something to eat in school in case it was the only meal, and lastly have access to a fully paid class perhaps this was the ticket to a better life.
The rest of us, life got thrown into the spanner literally. Life got slowed down, plans changed, priorities rethought, maybe even relearning and rebuilding old forgotten habits and relationships. Ah, the last part is tricky because you don’t know if people are being genuine, intentional or simply bored and when their routines resume you’ll be back to the parking lot. So guard your hearts where it matters.
Today though, my reflections were for the school-going children. I hope for once we will make decisions that say we truly care, we are intentional. We’ve thought it through, this is for generations to come and this is thinking of all of you-us. We are building your skills to solve problems, face life, and not bundle stuff that comes out in ugly ways. Because the pressure to perform for a single condemning inconsiderate mark of ink on paper called a grade has always been at the expense of all other things known to a child.