A Zimbabwean student studying (FILE PHOTO)

7 quick tips to ensure kids stay focused on school during the lockdown

MOST students have watched in horror as their learning gets disrupted by one form of lockdown or another. This has been happening the past sixteen months.

With the COVID-19 third wave setting in, the new normal looks like it’s not getting away anytime soon, and adaptation is key for the students to stay focused on learning. You, we and even the President all don’t know when the lockdowns will really end, so you can imagine the anxiety this uncertainty can bring on a mere student.

Students being kids, it is not easy to have home and school merged into one thing for such a long period of time. School is a place where the students learn new things, make friends and grow mentally. Such growth and learning must not be allowed to just die out because of the incessant lockdowns.

That is why we have engaged Dr. Thabela Maseko of The Science Institute in Harare and Mr Felix Chiroro to pen this guideline on how to ensure the students come out of the lockdown stronger and focused.

1. Create a routine

At school, the student’s life revolved around a fixed routine. A couple of times lessons in succession, a short breaktime, more consecutive lessions, then an hour’s lunchtime. Study after lunch on some days, or sports and clubs or activities on other days.

Now that the student is at home, they miss that routine as much as they miss their friends. Find a way to ensure the student has a resembling routine at home. An early morning bath followed by study, breaktime, more study and so on. It helps the student stay focused because the huge chunk of the day is spent on learning, much as it was at school.

2. Create a relaxed, dedicated learning space

At school, the student has their desk, lockers and bookshelf. At home, find a room or even a little corner where the student can use on a daily routine. Keep the room or corner well ventilated, clean and tidy. The space must be docorated with colour, charts and other learning materials so that the learning environment is funny and not tense.

Learning needs a relaxed mind and comfortable environment.

Make sure also that the learning environment is also free from intrusions, walk-ins and noise as this could defeat the whole idea of focusing on the learning.

3. Engage teachers

While physical learning has been restricted by lockdown measures, no-one can stop online learning. The student can’t study all alone till schools open, or else they will get frustrated and fatigued.

Keep in touch with the student’s teachers and engage them for online lessons. Where special software and resources such as Google Classrooms are not available or affordable, try to have the teachers use even cheaper platforms like WhatsApp for the lessons. It is that interface with the teacher that helps the student stay in the correct lane until schools open.

4. Don’t kill social life

Students have other physiological needs and socializing is an indispensable part of their mental growth and maturity. The pandemic has changed the way people socialize, what with social distancing requirements as well as travel restrictions.

In the new normal, the student can keep in touch with their friends via the phone or decent social media platforms. Where the friends live nearby, physical international with social distancing and the wearing of masks can keep the emotional and social needs of the student covered.

5. Create goals and road maps

A great way to stay focused is to help the student set up realistic goals and the roadmaps to achieving them. Whether the goals are personal or academic, a student needs them, more so in the new normal life of home-based tuition.

When the student spends time chasing after goals, it helps them stay focused on their learning. As they start achieving some of their goals, they get more motivated and gain the much-needed confidence for tougher challenges ahead.

5. Reward is key

Who doesn’t want a reward even for the simplest achievements in life? Truth is, we all do and it’s in our DNA to be revved up by a reward, even if it’s just a pat on the back.

If your student manages a couple of hours a day dedicated to their study, that’s enough reason to reward them. The reward may come in the form of a present or just a compliment.

Where there is room for improvement, mention that and make it clear to them that you appreciate the good they have achieved so far and that you’re absolutely positive that they shall prevail over any challenges and setbacks.

6. Exercise, rest and sleep

The time lost by not going to school can honestly never be recovered by any amount of homeschooling, so never burn out the student toyin6g to recover lost tim6w. That will backfire, and with drastic consequences.

The student needs enough sleep of between 8 and 10 hours. Sleep refreshes the mind and helps the student improve their attention span, memory, mental health and learning capacity.

Exercises are good as they stimulate some chemicals into the brain that enhance the mood, improve thinking and brain function. Whether it means taking a walk, watering the flowers or playing pada out in the yard, exercise helps bring variety to the student’s life so that they do not get bogged down by the learning.

7. Set boundaries and learn to say ‘No’

School is a way of taking the learning to an environment away from home where distractions are minimal and manageable. Now that we’re taking the learning home, the distractions can be overwhelming.

It is good to learn to say “no” when unsolicited friends knock on the door or on social media platforms requiring attention during study times. It is a good to let them know the student is occupied and will be available at some other time. Genuine friends will respect that routine and fit in.

Apart from friends, distractions also come from the urge to check that WhatsApp or Instagram notification that flashed across the screen. Study is no walk in the park; it demands strong resolve to be able to switch off social communication platforms until it’s social time.

While these tips are by no means exhaustive, they set the student and parent in a direct that helps the student come out of the lockdown in one piece. The world out there is tough and only those with the resolve, stamina and adaptability will see through it all.

  • Felix Chiroro is a published author of Mathematics and Chemistry high school textbooks. He can be contacted at: felixchiroro@gmail.com. Mr Mbonderi has devised study packs for students of Advanced Level Chemistry and Mathematics for years. The learning materials he produced have bewn approved for use in publis scholls by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.
  • Thabela Maseko is an academic and developer of learning systems and study portals. She can be contacted at: hourlyhits@gmail.com. Dr Maseko has spent the past 19 years teaching both normal classrooms and home-based as well as online students. As such, she comes in well-versed with the dynamics of learning environments on the mind of the student, and understands what home-based learning can do to the student.■

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