The new normal, in the time of COVID-19: A snapshot from Prishtina

Parents and children adapting to a new lifestyle during the pandemic.

Leonora Aliu
Hana learning how to cook.
03 April 2020

PRISHTINA, 1 April 2020 – Living rooms transformed into classrooms.  Televisions being used as blackboards.  Notebooks, crayons and pencils strewn around the houses, together with toys.  This may be the scene of a typical home in Kosovo in the past weeks, as the Covid-19 pandemic has led to the creation of a new normal.

There are limitations on movement in public places.  Most businesses are closed, except essential ones like grocery stores, pharmacies and gas stations.  While health institutions work to protect and treat people, the Ministry of Education Science and Technology has been conducting remote schooling using online and broadcast media channels.

Parents working from home and caring for their children

In this new lifestyle and rhythm, everyone is doing their best in trying to adjust. They are trying to adjust to their lives inside their houses and in redesigning their social life through technology devices.

To overcome this challenge more easily and to provide solutions for families, , the UNICEF Office in Kosovo has launched the #WhileAtHome campaign – offering ideas for parents to engage with their young children while working at home, and also a way to share their experiences and learn from one another.  In the first two days of the campaign’s activation, 40,000 social media users have followed the campaign.

Violeta Hyseni, a mother of two, says that continuing to work from home, while caring for her children and also taking care of housework, has been challenging.

During the #WhileAtHome campaign, she shared two pictures of her sons doing their homework. That is because her older son, Dion, age 7 and in the second grade, has to learn everything only through a laptop screen.  “He is taking instructions from his teacher about the homework he has to do, while we as parents supervise him and help him understand the tasks correctly.

“He is taking instructions from his teacher about the homework he has to do, while we as parents supervise him and help him understand the tasks correctly.  The lack of teacher-student interaction and the visual communication remains a challenge,” says mother Violeta. 

Dion 7 years, learning online.

“However, Dion is happy to have returned to his learning process.” Younger brother, Ylli, age 4, is also doing the activities that he would have been doing at his kindergarten, like colouring his favourite animated character, Winnie the Pooh.

UNICEF/2020/V. Hyseni
Little Ylli drawing at home.

Another common challenge, experienced by families living in urban areas and apartments, is that the only possibility of contact with nature and fresh air is on their balconies.

Veton Kasapolli, father of Kiri, age 2 years, talks about the transition he is going through with his child, whom he had continuously engaged in sports activities and outside. They had also competed together in a marathon. Now the marathon is organizing fun activities within the family’s apartment in Prishtina.

“What we are missing in this time of restriction is the denial of physical activities outdoors which were regular for Kiri. Six months ago, we ran together in Tirana’s half-marathon.  Today, we are trying to be innovative in the apartment which sometimes implies breaking the house rules, such as playing with a ball or moving around with a scooter,” says Veton.

“On the bright side, we have the chance to reinforce good habits, like washing our hands and overall hygiene, or even learning some new ones.  We are also doing this with the aim of continuing the kindergarten schedules – with meals, activities, naps – in order not to break the routine. But games are still primary,” he adds.

For another family, games must always be new and attractive because that is what little Hana from Prishtina is used to.

Her mother, Fillojetë Konjuhi, was one of the most active mums during the #WhileAtHome campaign, sharing tens of activities she did with her daughter over the course of one week, sharing a new activity every day.  From cooking in the kitchen to handcrafts and improvising as if going into nature by going out in their apartment’s balcony. Fillojeta is taking maximum care that, alongside her job, she provides loads of engagement opportunities to her daughter.

“Hana is a child that does not use technology at all so she spends her whole time with games and activities. These days of isolation at home, we are trying to find activities that are as attractive as possible to her, to replace the time of walks and games outside the house. Fortunately, she likes reading very much and in the evenings she often choses the book she wants us to read to her. She also finds cooking very entertaining, so I am often choosing recipes which she can engage with,” Fillojeta says.

Nonetheless, her daughter misses seeing the people she would see every day. “Hana is feeling the absence of her friends and kindergarten teachers. It is important that we as parents use this time with our children as much as we can, also using the time which, under the normal circumstances, we spend at work and our children in kindergartens and schools,” Fillojeta adds.

Hana painting.
UNICEF/2020/F. Konjuhi
Hana painting while at home.