I am from that generation which had TVs and radios as the height of technology. Back then, kids could never arbitrarily switch on the TV because they were bored and needed a little entertainment. These things were sacrosanct! After all, in a community, one could count the number of homes that owned a telly. Nothing fancy too, just a regular 14 inch black and white little thing that needed an "expert touch" on the aerial for clear picture.
Things are different now. A lot more different. For many of us, introduction to computers was part of a course at a college, and many of us came into contact with one much later in life. (We still type with only two fingers, three at most, if we are using both hands. Four at a stretch.)
It's not so for kids of these days who appear to be born with keyboards attached to their fingertips and can do all sorts of things on smart devices. Looking at them is like looking at a smarter, more intelligent version of our species. A modern six year-old seems to have more knowledge than a 10 year-old from the '80s and '90s. And because of this, we forget that they are just little kids, and that besides the technology, we are just the same. They crave the things we craved as kids.
In this respect, the lockdowns have been extremely difficult for them to understand and navigate. Yes, they hear us parents when we try to explain why they cannot go out to play with their friends. They even adopt some of the terminology in attempts to explain things to others, or you hear it when they are playing alone in the corner creating a make-believe world where their inhabitants converse. But it still brings them pain that they are forced to live lives in isolation.
Not only that, but for a child, school is the greatest invention ever. It is everything parents cannot give: clever adults who spend the day teaching them all these new things (if you have ever wondered, yes all kids believe their teachers are cleverer, smarter, know infinitely much more than their parents); and a limitless number of friends. In short, school quenches every thirst within a child, the hunger for knowledge and that of companionship. Free from the rules and structure of home.
If they could have their way, kids would increase their school hours, I have no doubt about that. Maybe they might choose to have more playtime and less learning time, but they would choose to be in that environment much more than home.
Of course, parents should not take this personally or as an indictment of their failings as parents. If anything, they should accept it as it shows that despite all their best efforts, there is only so much they can do and can provide for their kids. For instance, we all want our kids to have emotional intelligence, to be considerate, empathetic human beings, but we can only teach them the theory. It is at school where they get to practice those teachings as they develop the social skills they need to navigate through life.
I know and understand that we are keeping our children home from school, trying our hand at homeschooling the best way we can, for their sake. That goes without saying. However, every now and then, make we should appreciate that the biggest sufferers are these little ones. They might not be able to express it, but they are going through a tremendous period of loss and psychological pain. Indeed, they can always catch-up academically, but till then, they are suffering.
By Nhaka Foundation
Guest Contributor- CS Chiwanza