By Raylenne Kambua
Kenyan children have been adversely affected by the closure of schools caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and the media have been urged to help reverse the negative trend.
This was the key message that came out of the first Kenya Editors Guild Press club meeting of 2021 held on January 19th.
Apart from missing school many children had been victims of sexual and gender-based violence as well as losing loved ones to the pandemic, the meeting held in collaboration with United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef), heard.
Unicef Kenya representative Maniza Zaman said the agency believed the right to education is children’s most important right.
The agency had strived to ensure a safe environment for children returning to school and also through supporting digital learning by connecting schools to the Internet.
Issues pertaining children ought to be given prime attention in the media, the meeting heard. The media was urged to look into and cover children’s matters in depth and to support stakeholders in their bid to promote and protect children’s rights and privileges.
Dr Mercy Korir, the Editor, Health and Science, Standard Media Group, said COVID-19 had reversed many gains in children’s rights and this had traumatized the young ones.
“The mental health and psychological well-being of children is important. People wonder whether children also get depression. They do, and this aspect of their health should not be ignored,” she said.
This calls upon adults to take good care of children and not be the reason they go through depression and mental torture.
Other speakers at the meeting were Nyeri Governor Mutahi Kahiga, who chairs the Council of Governors’ Education Committee, Representatives from the National Parents Association and Rev.Father Joseph Mutie of the Inter Religious Council of Kenya.
Kenyan schools were closed for nine months from March 2020 when the pandemic was first reported in the country. They were re-opened in January this year.
The Kenya Editors’ Guild President Churchill Otieno challenged the media to work with partners like Unicef and parents to bring up children to be responsible citizens.
Governor Kahiga urged parents to step up and take their roles in raising responsible children. “A heard with no calves will perish. That calls upon us to focus on the calves (children),” he said.
The governor said county governments were working hard to support Early Childhood Development (ECD). This includes safe reopening of schools in the face of the pandemic. Early childhood education is a devolved function. The council was also collaborating with the Health and Education departments in handling the psychological health of children, he added.
The media, he said, had a duty to inform and educate the public on matters concerning children. It should promote and protect children’s rights by knowing and understanding what their best interests are. Reporting on children’s issues should be balanced and credible.