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Students forget lessons after spending months out of school

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Barely three months after schools were closed to curb the spread of Covid-19, Victoria Kanini discovered that her five-year-old son could not write his name.


The young boy, a pre-primary two pupil, had separated letters in his name and left out a letter.


“He has known how to write his name for years. That is why I was so surprised when he had to think before writing it and still got it wrong,” she said.

 

She expected that schools would only close for a short time. “I have been so busy with work, I didn’t realise that my son was forgetting almost everything he had been taught. Even still, I can barely do anything about it,” she said.


The government closed schools in March, after the coronavirus hit the country. They were partially reopened on October 12, admitting candidates and the pioneer class of CBC students after seven months out.

 

The rest are now on their eighth month home, which will stretch to 10 by the time all classes are recalled in January.


Most teachers who have learners in Form 4, Class 8 and Grade 4 have been forced to revisit topics already covered to refresh the memory of the pupils.


A mathematics teacher at Kilimani Primary School was not surprised when Class 8 pupils could not calculate simple math.


“They are mixing up multiplication and division and other simple skills. I have had to revise the general topics before continuing with the syllabus,” teacher Rahma Ngosi said.


At Ofafa Jericho Primary School, results for the just-concluded Knec examinations were received with apathy. Both the teachers and pupils held minimal expectations.

  

Joyline Amuga termed the 28 out of 50 scores for her Class 8 mathematics class as average. She knew it was way below what her students were capable of, but she was not surprised.


“They would have easily scored at least 35 in that paper, but having been away from school for close to seven months, this performance is understandable. We shall use the results to gauge how far back we need to revise,” she explained.


Countrywide, as many as eight in 10 children learnt little or nothing since schools closed because of Covid-19, a study in September found.

Says students have benefited from learning online since coronavirus school closures. 


A recent study by Unicef anticipates low educational achievement on average after schools reopen following a long-term shutdown.


Changes in parents’ employment status and access to food, for example, will directly impact students' performance, the study noted.


“Families with financial resources, stable employment and flexible work-from-home and childcare arrangements will likely weather this storm more easily than families who are renting their houses, working in low-paying fields that are hardest hit by the economic impacts, and experiencing higher rates of food insecurity, family instability and other shocks from this disruption,” reads the report.


Each day of closure, the study finds, is associated with a drop in scores in math and English.


Ofafa Jericho headteacher Elizabeth Ochieng’ understands the inequalities that exist among the pupils, who mostly come from slums near the school.

 

“We only had three children with 80 marks and above, and they are not the usual best-performing pupils we were used to. Now a child who was getting 90 marks before schools closed is getting 60,” she said.


“Most pupils were opening their books for the first time when we opened. The biggest population comes from low-income households, who cannot afford to study online and do not own a television.”


Like they do during their holidays, most pupils spent most of their time helping their parents fend for their families and, therefore, had no time to study.


“Being in school helps many of the pupils. Some have been relying on the school meals completely, even saving some to take to their siblings back home. When schools close, they have to find a means of helping to put food on the table,” she said.


Ochieng’ said it would be inevitable that such children had a reversed or stunted academic development. While pupils from informal settlements lagged behind for lack of resources, their counterparts in more privileged set-ups did not progress much.


Busy schedules for parents and lack of information meant parents were unable to establish a routine for the young learners and follow through their directives

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