A father’s story of parenting during COVID-19 in Sierra Leone
Parenting is a rewarding as well as a potentially stressful affair for many people, especially during periods of change. The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, along with measures to contain its spread, including restrictions on movement and closure of schools, have brought new challenges for parents across Sierra Leone. Parents and caregivers like Yayah Bangura, a father to three girls and driver working with UNICEF in Freetown, have had to adopt new coping strategies to help with parenting during this period.
“It has not been easy, juggling work, looking after the children, coping with my own anxieties, and trying to ensure that my children get the right information to protect themselves from the virus,” says Yayah who explains that the current pandemic has created new opportunities for him to be a father who demonstrates love for his children by keeping them safe from the virus.
“I have been very lucky to get a lot of information about COVID-19 from our office. When I am at home, I find time to learn even more about the disease and to share this information with my three children,” says Yayah, whose little girls, including 19-month-old Hafsa, can be seen regularly washing their hands with soap and water. “I share this information during times we are playing games, or just after dinner time,” says Yayah.
Apart from giving his children correct and regular information, Yayah says children learn best when they see good practices being modeled. When he leaves home for work, he ensures that he has a mask on to protect himself while in the line of duty. He also avoids crowded places and has made it a habit to carry a hand sanitizer along with him.
“My wife also goes out of the house for work and when we get back home in the evening, the first thing we do is wash our hands with soap – this when we are still by the gate of the compound where we have put up a handwashing bucket. We then immediately go into the shower and change our clothes before interacting with the children,” he says.
Across Sierra Leone, UNICEF’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) programs offer interventions that are run through the community and school-based centers, prioritizing play-based early stimulation and learning, nutrition, and protection to help children get a fair start in life. These centers are currently closed, a measure in place to contain the spread of the virus. This however does not mean children should be deprived of these elements which are required for their holistic development and which parents and other caregivers can support.
A recent U-Report June parenting poll, reaching over 7,000 registered parents however revealed that while 95 percent of parents agree that being a parent is the most important job in the world, only 52 percent of parents are able to spend more than 30 minutes a day playing, reading, talking or telling stories to their children. Twenty-Four percent (24 percent) of the respondents indicated that they spend less than 30 minutes a day with their children and 8 percent spent no time at all.