This weekend, schools across Nigeria will be sending pupils and students home. However, this is not your usual mid-term break or end of term holidays. In fact, most schools are due to start their term exams next Monday but in the light of the present realities involving the outbreak and spread of the Coronavirus in the country and the apparent intractable nature of the disease, all school activities such as the second term or second-semester exams in the nursery, primary and post-primary schools, annual inter-house sports in junior schools, PTA meetings and all such regular activities that take place in schools at this time of the year will be suspended indefinitely.
When is school resuming? No one knows for certain, perhaps in a matter of weeks, maybe a few months and who knows, education as we know it may have just ended. Pupils and students will return home this weekend to stay with their siblings, parents and relatives. One more interesting thing this season is that there will be limited activities in the churches (in most parts of the country) from now till whenever.
Families will be together for once in a very long while. No holiday lessons, no extramural classes, no Sunday schools, no cell fellowships and no birthday parties; it will be parents and their kids all through. What an interesting time to be alive. Things will also not be different for the Muslims and people of other faiths. No Islamiyya, no Friday prayers at the mosques and as I learnt earlier, regular daily prayers at central places may also be suspended.
Many parents are understandably unhappy over this development. As we have known over the years, living with adolescents is not the easiest thing in the world. The task of cleaning increased feeding budgets after paying school fees, sibling rivalries and having to separate fights are not exercises most parents enjoy so when they are in school during the session, the parents enjoy relative peace and calm in the home, the children are kept busy at school with school works and if they want to fight, there will be more than a few peers willing to give it to them hot. Don’t forget that they also take care of their personal hygiene, wash their own plates and manage their little beverages when in school. At home, doing all of these fall back on the parents.
Again this is a period of extreme public health anxiety and tensions. The families would be restricted to their homes mostly as such social activities as going to the public parks, shopping or visiting a fancy restaurant may not be the best things to do at a time like this.
In times past, wealthy families could afford to travel abroad, visit Dubai for a weekend of fun and return to the country after a few days looking fresh. This time, such options are not even on the table. The hospitals are dysfunctional and no one is sure where people who contract the virus would be taken to for adequate diagnosis and care. Most public hospitals are in poor conditions while the private hospitals do not have what it takes to manage the deluge of demands on their services in the weeks ahead. What would parents do if they or their kids get infected?
Now there is a funny angle to this. A few months ago, most well-to-do Nigerians would quickly jet out of the country at the slightest sign of health crises. At the moment, it is unlikely that any foreign embassy in Nigeria would grant any form of visa to any sick person to travel to their country at this period of great uncertainty. What then can we do? Sit back and hope for the best or give in to fear and die- even before our time?
As I said earlier, nobody knows for sure what he or she is going to do should things escalate. We are only praying it does not spread likely as we have in Italy or US because from what many of us know about Nigeria, a country that is still struggling with malaria and typhoid, battling to eliminate so many other diseases that several other nations have since wiped off the earth, stands no chance in dealing with this deadly pandemic.
As many of us are aware, there are very few quarantine centres in Nigeria, more than 30 states do not have the kits for testing the virus and there are no known vaccines or drugs for coronavirus in Nigeria. Do you now see why many have since admitted that “only God can help us?”
This writer would, however, encourage you to stay firm, observe your basic hygiene, wash your hands and teach your children to wash theirs, disinfect your environment and report every health challenge to competent medical authorities for as terrible as things are, you stand a better chance of survival with an expert’s advice than in resorting to self-medication. Assure your family that all will be well.
Specifically, here are a few things you can do to keep the family happy and excited in these dark times.
- Encourage the kids to keep reading their books: The schools may have closed but learning must go on. Many children come home with their textbooks. Encourage them to round off their home works, prepare for the exams, whenever it comes and keep themselves in good mental condition to return to schools anytime they are called upon. The world isn’t ending and every child must see this as a temporary setback in the quest for learning and schooling. The gap created by the closing of schools must be taken care of by developing study time tables at home and offering generous assistance as they study. If you can, try and explain difficult concepts to them or make good use of the internet to get a better perspective on issues. This is a time for you to become a good teacher and help your children and wards to learn.
- Engage them in the house chores: Everyone must be involved in keeping the house tidy this time, cooking the meals and doing whatever has to be done to keep the family unit in good shape. There should be no idling around, abandoning every chore to the house help or being unhelpful. Each child should be assigned a task based on his capabilities and try to supervise to see how you can assist. Keeping them busy gives them a sense of responsibility and equally means that no one will be fighting each other or playing empty pranks.
- Have fun together: Walking the dog round the neighbourhood, going for a walk, sightseeing in a pace not so far away and where there are no crowd and playing computer games together can keep the body relaxed and the mind active at a time like this. Make it a fun time and engage in whatever can build great bonds as a family. Do not make it a gloomy period. Play together, tell stories and pay attention to each other, watch the news and keep yourselves updated and definitely, make sure you see a few movies at home. Support one another and demonstrate that you care. Remember, only love can see us through at this period of great uncertainties.
May mankind survive.