Children and Education in the COVID-19 Situation: Who cares?

By: Apio Joseline, 13 -Uganda Joseline together with her sister Stacy ( Twin Queens) were chosen to take part in the Young reporters media Conference held on Zoom ahead of the Day of the African Child. Apio recounts the event. “Apio, that’s really a very important question, it is a question at the forefront of our minds!” This was the immediate response from Mr. Shiraz Chakera, the Education Specialist, UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office to a question I asked the UNICEF panel of experts during the young reporters Media Conference held online (via zoom call) on Friday June 12, 2020. The conference was a pre-event to the commemoration of the Day of the African child that’s being globally celebrated today (June 16, 2020). Like they say, life is full of opportunities, you have to grab one before its taken away. That’s exactly what I did when we were given the opportunity by UNICEF to ask any questions we had in mind, affecting us during the Covid-19 pandemic. This was a competition and we were told that so many children sent in their questions but only the best 8 questions were selected and I was among them! Isn’t that interesting? Well, my question was about children who are stuck in villages and do not have computers or Television sets to access lessons. Since the Covid-19 outbreak and subsequent country lock downs, schools in most countries including Uganda were closed and students sent back home. To cover the gap, teachers started sending lessons to our parents via whatsApp, emails and some on the school website. There are also teachers who are conducting lessons on TV and Radio on a daily basis. Unfortunately, while some children are able to access these lessons, majority of children in the villages are not able to do so because they don’t have TVs and their parents don’t have computers and mobile phones. This is the basis of my concern. How will these children complete the school syllabus? Can UNICEF recruit village volunteers to help and coach these children in small groups? You should have seen how happy I was when Mr. Shiraz agreed with my concern. He said that indeed it is true that these programs being aired on TV and Radio have not reached the most rural communities, adding that this is not just because they don’t have radios or TVs but they might just be involved in other activities and their parents do not have the time to coach them or access this information to make sense of it. “It is the most marginalized that are the least supported at this moment of school closure.” He said. In response to my question as to whether UNICEF could recruit village volunteers to coach the children, Mr. Shiraz said that there were a number of things that they were doing with other countries and governments some of which include ensuring human to human contact from teacher to households to provide support and monitor progress of the children. He added that my idea of village volunteers is very important and things like peer-to-peer learning, children supporting other children have been well established to support remedial learning in some countries. He gave the example of Botswana where youth interns are used to support remedial learning programs. In conclusion Mr. Shiraz said that my idea is something that UNICEF would like to try with other countries in the region to see if we can make that happen. Well, we talked about a lot and l also learnt a lot even from all the other experts who were on the panel. Wow, opportunities really are golden chances! Now l know that there is a group of people out there willing to risk their lives for our welfare and they can do anything for us like listening to our questions to find solutions to them and a way they can help. At least l know that we are not alone right now in this Covid-19 scare. God bless and protect the African Child.

Print   Email