Back to School!

The kids are back to school; albeit virtually. This pandemic has really forced all of us to scramble and look for ways to adapt to the situation. Governments have been caught flatfooted, which has meant many kids missing out on the completion of the school year.

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With community transmissions on the rise here, most probably  public schools will be opening in Jan/ Feb when the new school year is set to begin. 

Private schools have been engaging the government on reopening but one interesting thing to note is that even if the private schools were able to implement all possible Covid- 19 precautionary measures, the government will be reluctant to give them approval for the following reasons; it will be unfair to those in public schools, and there will also be immense pressure on the education ministry to reopen the public schools which are not ready. Keep in mind, some public schools are in such dilapidated states, one wonders where they till start. Some schools do not have running water, roofs, are dilapidated, classes are overcrowded, sanitation is pathetic, and receive little to nothing in terms of  government support, how then will coronavirus transmission be contained? 

As much as education is a basic right, the right to life is more important and our children’s lives must be protected by all means. 

How we educate our children is changing. Even with the emergence of (allegedly) successful vaccines, things will not go back to normal fast. It could mean we have to homeschool our young ones for the first few years before they join face to face classes, as how will they learn effectively via Zoom/ Google classroom? 

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What does this also mean for the working parents or those with none or only one device between them and have more than one child?

My last born is joining Grade 1 and I am very excited but anxious too. This ‘new normal’ means his experience will be completely different from the norm as he has to meet his classmates online. Lucky for us kids adapt easily and I find they might cope with this better than we the adults. 

I am appreciative of the schools’ efforts to maintain learning through this period too through online activities. It is not easy for the teachers too; and we need to remember the hard work they are putting in to transfer the teaching material online, record the instructional videos or teach live. That is no mean feat!

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I have been following some conversations online and as much as some parents are feeling an extra burden, we should not forget the strain on the educators as well. 

I also acknowledge that it is a privilege for those of us whose kids are able to continue learning. We should not take this for granted. Luckily the school is nearby so for the young ones we are getting weekly printed school work packets that are great, as it means less screen time for the kids, which is another worry for many parents. 

For those having the kids home and not in class is also a great opportunity to impart knowledge without the confines of a classroom and rigid curriculum. Life skills; star gazing, learning through play or about nature, cooking, sewing, woodwork etc. There are so many ways we can still educate our children without the usual ‘schooling’. Let them plant flowers or trees, help in cleaning, baking, fixing the car or home repairs, they are still learning invaluable lessons.

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Another important thing we need to do as parents is to mind our language and energy around our children too. Quit complaining about them being home or in class within earshot of your children. Watch the energy we give out too. Children learn more by what we do, NOT what we say. We are anxious but let us try to be optimistic with all that is happening. 

Safety is also paramount. Let us know where our kids are and who they are with. Also online safety, what precautions are we taking during the online classes? Do we sit with the kids or leave them to their own devices? Do we check what they are doing online? Do we talk to them about online dangers? 

Gone are the days when kids were instructed and expected to toe the line without question. These days we have to explain and discuss with them (at their level of understanding obviously) on what is safe, permissible and in line with our values. We are our children’s first educators, whether they are in school or not,  and this time we have with them is best to instil family values that they will never forget. 

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We are living in interesting times indeed.

Keeping Kids Busy, or not…

Dear fellow parents,

How are you coping with the kids in this trying time?

Are we communicating with them? How are we keeping them engaged? School activities? Crafts? Games? Cookery lessons? Gardening? Let us share tips.

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We are living in a world we had not anticipated and a few things are coming to light, both positive and negative.

Positives: More open communication with our kids and we get to understand them better right? Isn’t it amazing how different personalities the kids have?

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Another positive is better health; no more sniffles and annoying colds and coughs brought home from school? More family time, YAY! we can now catch up on those activities we kept putting off as we were too busy- time to build the fort with them in the garden, listen to them practice their musical instruments ( early morning and late night in my home).

Negatives: On the extreme, we have increased risk of abuse; especially for those in vituperative environments( physical too). Increased stress and anxiety as they try to understand us too and the situation; and this applies to both older and younger kids. Is your kindergartener pushing your buttons increasingly this period?

Now is the time to teach them to bake or cook simple meals. Ooh the bliss of having your six year old crack the eggs for those yummy muffins. Just make sure they are safe.

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The kids spending a lot of time online exposes them to online predators; are we keeping tabs on them and talking to them about the dangers? What measures are we taking to protect them?

Add to that the stress of not knowing when they are going to complete the school year, especially those in their final year of school, is it all lost? How do we encourage them to not lose hope?

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Are you working from home? Not an easy balance when it comes to ensuring the kids have their online classes; you have your zoom meetings and running the household too ensuring all is in order. It is not easy. And gadgets, you may be having that one laptop or tablet that you work on and all your kids need to access their school work too. These are just a few of our experiences.

These are times we had never anticipated but in true human fashion I believe in resilience and adaptation. There is no manual for what we are living through but we will get through. We have to believe that. I know we are already adapting to this new norms as adults, but let us keep communicating with our children.

Keep talking to and with them, have discussions and questions about what they are feeling, what they want to do during this time, what their fears and hopes are. Let us not make the mistake of keeping quiet and caught up in our adult lives and forget they are learning more of the world by watching and listening to us.

So parents, how are you truly coping in this period?

Let’s Plantain!

One of the things I love about Kampala is the fact that plantains are easily available. ‘Gonja‘ as they are known here are steamed, fried, baked, roasted/ grilled and even make some crunchy tasty crisps that my son loves a bit too much!

I am always assured of help by my little sous chef when his fave is on the dinner menu.

With it’s constant presence in my kitchen, I have been trying different recipes and ways to cook this delicious vegetable/ fruit. Here are some of the ways we have had it so far, and I will be sure to share any more new recipes using them.

You can pan fry them and have them with wings and a salad.

One can also deep fry them if they are still firm, they are a great snack that way. I like them yellow almost black though, which makes them better suited for baking and pan frying as they are softer then. Deep frying the really ripe ones makes them absorb too much oil.

I like them this way.
If they are too ripe ,bake them into a lovely plantain bread. just mash/ blend them like you would bananas for banana bread.
You can fry them with little to no oil in a non stick pan and have them with yummy fried fish and a warm cabbage beetroot salad.
Easy oven baked plantains with a sausage stew and some coleslaw. Quick, easy and a hit with the kids.
Who said you can’t have mashed plantains. Steam them and mash with a splash of warm milk, some butter and some pepper. Have them with a nice stew. It is so YUMMY!!
Or pan fry them and have them with some spicy chicken and salsa.

I do not want to lie and say I have a favourite way of having them, they are that versatile and delicious on their own or with other sides. I want to try making them with coconut milk next. How do you like your plantain?

Coming out of lockdown…

Would you believe it has been two months of living in lockdown here?

The country is opening up albeit slowly with partial allowances for movement. Personal vehicles are now allowed on the road, but no more than three people in the vehicle, and the public transport vehicles are yet to get back. Masks to be worn at all times when out. Schools are still closed too.

I took a short drive the other day just around our neighbourhood. Well, lots of people were not wearing masks and there were some motorbike taxis out too. Was I shocked? A bit. I know not all folks can access the masks or stay indoors and also the fact that there is no community transmission that we know of YET, could be why some folks seem to be taking it easy.

A lot of people from other places seem to think the approach taken here is working. Time will tell though. The thing about Corona is nobody can be fully prepared or be able to predict its actuality. To say this virus sucks is an understatement. It is taking lives, halting livelihoods, crushing economies as we watch and the health, social and economic implications will be felt for a long time.

One of my major worries is kids and school. What will happen to the kids? Teachers? other staff? Keeping in mind close physical interaction is a big nope; how will our kids play with each other? What if one kid or a teacher falls sick? What happens then?

How are our kids taking all this in? I was surprised the other day when my seven year old daughter used the word pandemic when playing with her six year old brother. We don’t watch news avidly but they are already catching up with the lingo. When they ask about visiting friends or places its always “after Covid, can we….?” My son keeps asking when Corona will end and if it will ever go away ? They also ask if they will be wearing masks forever ? Sigh, so many questions we don’t have answers to.

My kids have been making masks for their toys too- Sad.

It is not easy to talk to our children about it but we have to. And we have to do it in a way that does not scare them. Having a schedule has been working to keep their mind and bodies busy. Not too rigid but something to give this time at home some semblance of normalcy.

Now to talk to them about the changes; that yes, we can move around a bit but still cannot access some places or have people over. Still can’t give hugs and handshakes, keep masks on when out etc.

What kind of a life is this though?

Schooling from Home

Kudos to all parents who are doing all they can to ensure their children’s education continues in spite of the lockdown.

It is interesting to see how much more teachers are appreciated by the parents when the roles are reversed. It is not easy keeping in mind the parents are also working from home and have to achieve their targets too.

I would be lying if I say I have not had my fair of challenges doing this; I am however lucky that the kids are still young so the workload is not that much. But getting them to adapt to the new schedule and understand that its not homework but actual schoolwork they could have been doing in class has not been an easy task.

Weekly zoom classes have been great for them to catch up with their teachers and see their friends; their excitement every Wednesday is palpable!

I am actually not that bad at this right?
This is me every morning when they just do not want to get started on their school work. Sigh.