In March 2020 when the first case of Covid-19 virus was reported in Kenya, all schools had to be closed indefinitely. This was among the measures that were meant to combat the spread of the virus not only in Kenya but also around the world. Such an occurrence had no playbook since there was no precedent, nobody could predict what would follow.
Cutting through the chaos, students had to study virtually. The government through the ministry of education tried to engineer the transition into online studies. But, be that as it may, many students were left out. Underlying challenges such as poor network and struggling technological infrastructure manifested among many students especially those in public schools.
“For the seven months that I couldn’t study online, there were students who were reading,” said Allan Udoma, second best student in KCSE 2020 at a Citizen Tv interview.
Fast forward to 2021, students have been studying under extraordinary circumstances. Those in lower levels of education – primary and secondary schools, had to adapt to the tight restructured academic calendar to accelerate their studies. Likewise, face to face learning in universities and colleges has remained contingent on the Covid-19 infection rate in the country. This system has inevitably taken a toll on the school-life balance of the students.
To start with, students have been spending most of their time glued to the screen ; either studying or interacting with their peers. While accessing information and networking is great, this sedentary lifestyle has some side effects for instance high risk for obesity, sleep problems and neck pains together with back pains.
The emotional and mental well-being of students has also been affected. While meeting physically has been discouraged, students have resorted to going online. The internet just like any other great tool invented by humanity, acts like a double edged sword. It has it’s pros and cons. It’s fatal flaw is associated with social media where unnecessary pressure and bashing takes center stage. Young individuals find themselves with depression and anxiety issues which are accelerated by the economic problems tied to the pandemic.
Moreover, many students, especially girls, had to drop out of school. Typically, schools have been a safe haven for vulnerable girls. It’s still too early to assess the long term effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on school going girls. But, after staying at home for the better part of 2020, girls in some parts of the country fell victim to people who took advantage of their situation. For instance, in the coastal part of Kenya, 946 girls got pregnant within that time with only 346 girls going back for their second term.
It’s evident that the Covid-19 pandemic has forced many students into uncharted waters. But while we craft different ways of coping and dealing with the socioeconomic challenges, we should also try and maintain a balance between our school life and other aspects of our lives.
Featured image credit: The Angels of Grace