By Ikeugonna Eleke
A friend of mine argued that even when we defeat the coronavirus pandemic, it would have left us with invaluable lessons. Another added his voice that it would have also taken a huge toll on how we do things, or enhanced how we do it. I didn’t see any reason why I should argue with anyone of their submissions.
I received a call from my children’s teachers two weeks ago, and they told me I was going to be added to some whatsApp groups, as the school intended to start e-learning for children. I was happy because the dose of cartoons that my children have accumulated in their brains since the lockdown started is enough to serve them for a lifetime, yet they are not satisfied, as they keep scanning television channels for something new.
I became even more worried about their love for cartoons, days back, when I returned from work and could not find one of my boys. His older brother told me he had been at the backyard corridor all day, looking for a spider that would bite him so he could become a Spiderman. He believed that the bite would not only transform him to a Spiderman, but bequeath him with cobwebs that would make him attain the ability to fly like the television character called Spiderman in one of the cartoon series.
So, it was with happiness that I accepted the e-learning thing. At least, the children can find something to be busy with, and that will discourage them from viewing cartoons every day.
Eventually, I got added to the school’s Basic one, two and four classes for my first three children.
The admission was followed by a welcome message to parents and also enquiring of the well-being of the children. Thereafter, the setting of the WhatsApp group was reset so that only admins could comment. All the teachers in the various classes of same level were made admins, and that automatically shut parents out.
Before then, we had been told that lessons, notes and homeworks, would be sent to the group for us to take home to the children, and that every week, we were expected to submit the children’s homework on Monday in school, while we return the next day to pick it for the next days’ lessons, notes and homeworks, which would be submitted on Friday again.
The session kicked off with loads of lessons deposited on the various fora. Most came as videos and audios; albeit very large in size that I wondered if I could download them with the same shrinking resources that COVID-19 had bequeathed me. The others came as notes, drawings and excerpts from their workbooks.
I didn’t realize the challenge I was to face until I took the notes and homework home. I told my boys about it, opened the WhatsApp group and showed them. Then I realized that we didn’t have an electronic tablet from where the children could deal with the homeworks (poverty is a bastard), and the option was for me to deposit my phone with my senior boy, with the instruction that he could use it for the night, while the next night, his brother could do same, while the other did his too, before it was Friday, when we could submit the homework.
I went to sleep after depositing my phone with them in the living room, but to my chagrin, I woke up the next morning to find the screen of my fairly new Infinix Hot8 phone broken. Then I realized the danger of leaving one of my work tools for these children.
I tried the next option; I went to a business centre and printed the homework for them, and it cost me over N1,000, and I paid grudgingly.
Again, I encountered another challenge. After toiling for bread every day, I came back home to act as a teacher, with each child begging me with questions that I barely had answers to.
We managed to cope with them and took them to school on Friday for marking.
I was to return on Monday to pick them so we could do next week’s assignment with same workbooks, but on Monday, I arrived at the class of the first child and found the teacher was absent. I was already pressed for time, as I had an engagement that could put garri on the table that day. So I stormed out, leaving to go earn garri before coming for books. I wondered how I could cope with catering for the family if I had to be saddled with all these tasks every day.
In subsequent weeks, I was already enraged and fit to walk up the wall. The videos were as heavy as 105mb, and I had several of them to download. Besides spending money on printing and downloading, I found out I wasn’t sleeping well because after the day’s toil, I came home to act as a teacher too. It was then I began to realize what harm the coronavirus had brought upon me.
I just hope I would not be asked to pay school fees now, despite the toll the coronavirus had taken on my finances, and the fact that I do the work of the teacher, besides spending money on printing and data. The coronavirus, you can now go, so we live our normal lives. You have taught us new things, but you can now leave because we are tired of learning new things.