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Opinion: Reopening of schools; What every parent should know

When the first few cases of the Novel Coronavirus were recorded in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, the world least expected a pandemic. When it showed signs of becoming one, most Ghanaians believed our country will be spared. Even when Ghana recorded its first few cases in March, hopes were very high that with the measures put in place by the government, including the closing down of schools and churches, the virus could be contained.

But today, with over 7,600 confirmed cases still counting, people wonder what the future will look like as far as this pandemic is concerned. How worse can it get? Do we stand a chance of returning to normalcy anytime soon? Should schools and churches be allowed to open now?

It has been over two months since the President directed the closedown of schools on March 15th, and parents have every reason to be worried that their wards have been home for this long. But the public reaction, last week, to reports of a possible reopening of schools soon showed that, though parents are concerned about their wards’ academics, they are more concerned about their safety in this pandemic and are not ready to take risks. Those against the reopening of schools now have rightly argued with the France incident, where over 70 students got infected within one week after schools reopened, as a case study.

It is however important for us to remind ourselves that the world would not remain shut forever. With or without a remedy to this pandemic, the world will open up. The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the virus will remain with us for a long time, just like malaria, and many other diseases. WHO Regional Office for Africa also warns that cases will continue to increase in Africa and estimates about 29 million to 44 million infections with 83 thousand to 190 thousand deaths.

What does this tell us?
A time will come when countries will be forced to open up to save the very lives they are protecting now with restrictions and lockdowns. Some severely hit countries like Italy, Spain, China, and the United States of America (USA) have started opening up. It is important for us to know that churches and schools in Ghana will not remain closed forever. And so even if the government doesn’t open schools now, it will do one day, by which time per WHO’s projections the virus will still be with us. Will your child be fit enough to survive the virus when schools eventually reopen?

What parents should be doing?
Much as parents have every reason to want to have a say in governments’ decisions regarding their wards, there is something more important they should be doing: preparing their wards to be fit enough to survive when schools eventually reopen. Parents should be doing four things in this regard:

First, parents should be preparing their children psychologically for the reopening of schools. You cannot afford to let your child go to school psychologically unfit. The fear factor is very key and so it is important for parents to begin psyching their children up of every fear they may be going through now. If your child has been so tensed about this virus, this is the time to calm him or her down. If the child has been so relaxed and seems unmoved by the situation, this is the time to let him or her know the virus is real. Your ability, as a parent, to make your children know the severity of the pandemic without putting fear in them is very important.

Second, parents ought to be preparing their children emotionally. Children should be trained to be emotionally intelligent and sensitive. You won’t want your child to go out there and be stigmatising others who or whose relatives have been infected. This is the time to increase your child’s emotional quotient level. Your child should know that infected persons of COVID-9 are just victims of a deadly virus, a virus that can infect any other person. Getting your child to see the virus in this way will prepare him or her emotionally to be sensitive to friends and colleagues who or whose relatives have been infected.

Third, parents should be preparing their children physically. One major challenge likely to be faced when schools reopen will be getting students and pupils to follow the social distancing protocols and other precautionary measures. It is therefore important for parents to begin to expose their children to some of these things. Parents should let their children understand the need for them to observe these protocols. As a parent, you should be teaching and ensuring that your children practice social distancing, wear face masks, wash and sanitize their hands regularly, among others. By doing this, you are preparing your child to stay safe when schools eventually reopen. You cannot afford your child to go to school without knowing the need and how to wear face masks, wash hands properly, and observe social distancing.

The fourth and final one, but most necessary, is that parents should be living exemplary lives to their children. The best way to prepare your children in the three aforementioned ways is to serve as an example to them. How psychologically fit are you as a parent? Do you express too much fear for this virus in the presence of your children? Or you are so unmoved by anything about this pandemic? How sensitive are you towards infected persons? Do you stigmatize others in the presence of your children? Do you practice social distancing? Do you wear the face masks? These are some questions you should be asking yourself as a parent. And remember that, the crab cannot beget a bird

So you see dear parents, these are more important things you should be doing now. Leave the experts and the government to decide when schools should reopen and focus on preparing your wards psychologically, emotionally, and physically to survive the virus when schools eventually reopen. Remember to be a good example to your wards and back them spiritually with prayers.

Don’t waste your time on something you have no control over, focus on what you can control.


Source: Isaac Piyuori, Student Journalist, GIJ

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