CHOLERA AND SCHOOL – ANY CONNECTION?

Tue, 06 Feb 2018 13:33:22 +0000

I TOOK time to try and understand the connection between the cholera epidemic and school fees. What is the connection? Jokes were made and circulated on social media concerning cholera and school fees.

There was one poem which was both a satire and a lamentation demanding to know why cholera had decided to slow down as it would mean opening schools. This in turn would mean paying of school fees. Most parents expected schools to open in February regardless of location.

  1. DEBILITY

Being in the academic circles, I sat down to reflect on cholera and its effect on learners and teachers. It is definitely traumatising to be a cholera patient. It is equally traumatising to be a caregiver to a cholera patient.

It is worse if a family has been struck by death of a loved one due to cholera, whether it’s a neighbour or relative. Some period of recovery is needed for the affected to come back to normal physically and emotionally. Such things affect academic performance negatively.

Pupils who were sick of cholera will need a lot of encouragement. It’s one thing to recover in the physical but another to recover emotionally. Actually even if a pupil was not sick but just watched a neighbour suffering from cholera is enough to affect the academic performance.

It is worse if a pupil watched a neighbour or relative die of cholera. Such pupils should be taken care of at school and at home. These innocent victims will come back to normal with proper counselling, love and care from both teachers and parents.

  1. SCHOOL FEES

Certain parents who depend on businesses which are based on daily sales of certain products have been negatively affected economically by the cholera epidemic. This is more serious in the case of those parents who run food stores or operate mini cafes.

Worse still if the shop is within the epicentre and does not meet health standards then it has to close down. Such loss of income is bemoaned and is used as an excuse as far as paying school fees is concerned. Unfortunately, parents just have to find a way of paying the school fees.

  1. TEACHERS and TEACHER AIDES

Some private schools have what we call TEACHER AIDES who assist the Teacher to take care of the children’s needs in the classrooms. The actual teacher has a chance to concentrate on his work without any disturbance because the Teacher Aide is there to assist.

At a certain reputable school a Teacher Aide receives little children in lower grades from their parents and escorts them to their classroom. This is to save the parents’ time as they are rushing for work.

I was amused one time when a Teacher Aide politely went to receive a child but the mother refused to release the child on account of a brown apron/overall which the Teacher Aide was wearing.

There was that fear that the apron might contain cholera germs as evidenced by its seemingly dirty appearance. After a few minutes of discussion it was established that the apron worn by the Teacher Aide was clean and that the brown colour was not as a result of dirt but the actual colour of the material used.

4.HOUSE MAIDS/ NANNIES/BABYSITTERS

House maids who were affected by cholera were either dismissed or put on forced leave or leave pending dismissal or anything like that. I know that somehow labour laws were violated but some mothers did not want to risk infecting their children. Now you may wonder how dismissal of a housemaid is connected to school.

Children get attached or even bond with the maids and nannies because the children’s minds accept maids and nannies as mother substitutes so when you bring in a new maid or nanny the child gets disoriented and the reaction may affect school performance.

Actually smaller children in nursery and lower primary grades may even cry out loud in protest of a new maid. Some may suffer silently without saying a word but class performance is likely to be affected.

Older children are too shy to cry when a maid whom they bonded with is dismissed so they cry inwardly and this is more painful than those who cry out loud openly. The older children struggle silently to accept and bond with the new maid. If this struggle takes long, the children get negatively affected and the negative effects may spread from home to the classroom.

  1. BOREDOM

The schools that have been closed down due to unsuitable health related learning conditions have a big task to perform when they open. This is because both learners and their teachers may experience some degree of boredom resulting from the long waiting period which the mind did not anticipate.

The extent of boredom differs from one person to the other. Pupils who take the waiting opportunity as a chance to study and catch up will not feel bored at all. Teachers who take this chance to prepare and research etc will not be bored at all.

Boredom is a very uncomfortable experience and it disturbs the mind and delays the switch to learning mode when the school reopens. Bored teachers and bored learners will take long to start functioning well again when school re-opens and there is a danger of letting laziness creep in which in turn will affect class performance.

Safe and interesting activities can help to take care of boredom. Unchecked boredom may lead to antisocial activities like drinking smoking etc.

  1. SCHOOL STATUS

Some schools have relatively less income than others. This is due to various reasons mostly related to the catchment area or location of the school. It could also be due to the fact that it is difficult to carry out any meaningful fundraiser for reasons related to the immediate environment of the school in terms of socio-economic issues.

The school administration may have brilliant ideas meant to bring the school to a higher level but will naturally be brought down by the natural socio-economic surroundings.

Due to ethical issues I will not mention these schools but you can easily guess which schools I am referring to.

Such a situation may mean that the school will always be low in income and fundraising activities are either non-starters or a complete flop.

This means that during a cholera outbreak when they are shut down by the authorities on account of lack of running water for instance, they may be at a loss in terms of response. Such schools are left with no option but to apply for help from the government and it takes long to get a response let alone some action.

It is obvious that such schools will take long to re-open and as their counterparts start learning they will still be pushing for assistance from government or asking for help from well wishers.

This is the time when any well meaning company operating in the vicinity of such schools should show corporate social responsibility and help out.

7.ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE

Needless to say that delayed school opening has an effect on the school calendar and will yield negative academic performance if remedial measures are not taken. It follows that school management has to seriously brainstorm on remedial measures and catch up strategies to suit different types of pupils.

That means extra effort by teachers, learners and parents. The extra effort will attract the need for extra spending in terms of more books, more snacks, more pocket money and so on.

Actually it is expensive to allow cholera among us. A natural strain is created on parents and teachers and this strain may trickle down to learners if not well contained and it will affect their class performance. Never again should we allow cholera to manifest itself in Zambia. The effects are undescribable.

  1. BREEDING GROUND

You may not believe this but some schools are allowed to operate near official breeding grounds of cholera. I have seen dirty taverns being allowed to operate very near a school. I have also seen some street vendors dumping rubbish near a school now the funny part of it is that their own little children go to that same school to learn.

Originally, the school could have been built on clean surroundings but over the years some people have turned it into a breeding ground for cholera germs. Usually the surrounding community will justify their actions as a way to make ends meet not knowing that they are doing so at the expense of the health of their own children.

Mosquitoes have also been given a natural chance to breed freely without disturbance. Apart from malaria, other threat posers are outbreaks of diseases like typhoid and dysentery.

 

 

 

 

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