Tag Archives: World Bank

In Africa schools are closed, but learning goes on

Countries use radio, TV and internet to keep students engaged

By Franck Kuwonu

As students in Kenya were waiting for the government to announce when schools would re-

Education

Igihozo, 11, listens to a lesson on a radio after his school was closed in Rwanda. UNICEF/UNI319836/Kanobana

open from a longer than usual April school holidays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, they were asked to stay home for an additional four-week period.

The situation is the same in many other countries. Across the African continent, an estimated 297 million students have been affected by school closures as a result of the pandemic.

Globally, school closures due to COVID-19 have affected 1.29 billion students in 186 countries, which is 73.8 per cent of the world’s student population, according to the UN Education Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

“Never before have we witnessed educational disruption on such a scale,” UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay said recently.

Despite the challenges of limited access to internet connectivity, electricity or computers, countries are keeping learning active through various remote learning  methods such as radio and television programmes, on addition to online platforms and social media.

Online learning

In Egypt, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria, Morocco, Rwanda, South Africa and others, a number of schools and universities have moved some of their programmes to  online platforms and have encouraged students to get connected.

The University of Ghana, for example, has trained its lecturers on how to put together online classes, while negotiating with telecom companies to grant free internet data, usually capped at 5G, for the students.

Victoria, 21, one of the millions of young people in Ghana impacted by school closures said: “I stay connected, getting myself busy with online lectures, having interactions with friends.

Victoria told UNICEF that she avoids crowded places and prefers to stay safe at home. “I also try to learn new things I haven’t done before – getting used to cooking, reading more books. Sometimes dancing if I have to, just to take off the stress and not feel very bored at home.”

In Nigeria and Morocco, the governments have created online repositories with education materials for teachers and parents, while the Rwanda education board has set up a dedicated website to support learning and provide educational content, as well as assessment tests. The website also enables teachers and parents to communicate.

However, due to low internet connection, expensive data and an urban-rural digital divide, online classes alone are unable to cater for all students. This creates the risk of leaving millions of students in Africa behind. In sub-Saharan Africa, UNESCO says 89 per cent of learners do not have access to household computers and 82 per cent lack internet access.

At the launch in March of the Global Coalition for Education, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: “We are working together to find a way to make sure that children everywhere can continue their education, with special care for the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities.”

The UNESCO and UNICEF-led initiative of international organizations, civil society and private sector partners aims to ensure that learning continues. It will help countries mobilize resources and implement innovative and context-appropriate solutions to provide learning remotely by leveraging on hi-tech, low-tech and no-tech approaches.

Radio schools

Countries are increasingly also promoting remote learning through traditional mass communication tools such as radio, and sometimes television. Radio’s wide reach and relatively low need for technical know-how makes its deployment faster and easier than scaling up internet connections.

With assistance from UN agencies such as UNICEF, UNESCO, the World Bank and others, countries are quickly scaling up their radio and TV programmes or launching new initiatives.

For example, Ghana’s public broadcasters have rekindled dormant programmes on tv and radio for high school students. Similar programmes are running in Madagascar and Côte d’Ivoire.
In Senegal, the government’s efforts are encapsulated in a catchy slogan: “Ecole fermée, mais cahiers ouverts,” meaning “school is closed but learning goes on”.

Radio Okapi, an UN-sponsored radio network in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), launched Okapi Ecole (Okapi School) – a twice-daily remote learning programme for primary, secondary and vocational school students.

In Rwanda, UNICEF is working with the Rwanda Broadcasting Agency to produce and air nationwide basic literacy and numeracy classes. UNICEF identified more than 100 radio scripts from around the world focusing on basic literacy and numeracy that could be adapted to align with Rwanda’s school curriculum. The same support is being provided to Malawi.

In Côte d’Ivoire, UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Education on a ‘school at home’ initiative that includes taping lessons to be aired on national TV.

Looking beyond COVID-19, the Association of African Universities (AAU) sees an opportunity for local universities to explore expanding “technology-based platforms for teaching, learning and research.” Still, challenges such as network infrastructure, data prices and access to adequate digital equipment will need to be addressed for this to be a continent-wide success.

For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal

WHO: How the lessons from Ebola are helping Africa’s COVID-19 response

BY: 

AFRICA RENEWAL

 Considerable effort is going into fighting COVID-19 in Africa and worldwide. WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti spoke with Africa Renewal about applying lessons learned from the continent’s Ebola virus disease response, as well as actions of continental and international solidarity to address the pandemic:

This is part 3 of a 3-part interview with WHO Regional Director for Africa Dr. Matshidiso Moeti covering Africa’s preparedness and response to the COVID-19 pandemic, what WHO is doing in support of countries, lessons learned from the Ebola response and solidarity efforts underway to fight the spread of the virus.

Africa Renewal: What has the Ebola response taught Africa about how to prepare for COVID-19?

Dr. Moeti: The important lesson we learned from the Ebola outbreak, which is being applied now, is how to start work early at the community level, because communities are key at the start of an outbreak, in terms of surveillance and recognizing patterns of illness.

We have engaged the people strongly, working through community groups to disseminate information about the pattern of the coronavirus disease and how to protect oneself. We have also learned that it is important not only to tell people things, but to also listen to them and to incorporate that information into our strategies. There is a huge amount of information — some of it incorrect — circulating about this coronavirus, and we have learned from the Ebola experience to reach out; not just to send radio messages, but to talk to people and hear them.

We have also built on the capacity already put in place for the Ebola outbreak. For example, some of the laboratory testing capacity was built around the Ebola experience. We learned a lot about point-of-entry screening of people through work on Ebola and have now started a strong partnership with the International Organization for Migration (IOM). We have learned a lot also about the rapid exchange of capacities, including those of laboratories, between countries.

In relation to the lessons learned from the Ebola outbreak, one of the things that I’m hoping will help us is testing out therapeutics even as we are using them. In carrying out clinical trials, we learned how to bring partners together. We are seeing many coalitions of technical agencies, the private sector and WHO coming together to look at therapeutics and vaccine development. I think these are some of the precious lessons that came out of the Ebola experience and will be very useful during this pandemic.

What continental solidarity efforts are under way?

At the continental level, one of the first and most important issues for us, was that diagnostic capacity was very limited in the region. At the beginning we had only two laboratories able to diagnose COVID-19 and they offered their services to other African countries. We were shipping specimens to Dakar’s Institut Pasteur and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases in Johannesburg, who have also been training other countries.

We have seen an exchange of expertise between countries, and ministers of health networking among themselves to exchange their own experiences and offer each other ideas. I think there’s been a real openness towards providing support to each other among African countries and I’m certain that we’ll continue to see this solidarity.

And the private sector?

The private sector has also offered its services. We have seen an outpouring of support, particularly in terms of messaging from some of the communications companies. We will be partnering with them to make sure people get essential messages about how to protect themselves and others.

What are some of the international solidarity efforts under way?

We have seen real international generosity and solidarity around this outbreak. For example, the Jack Ma Foundation offered one of the most acutely needed commodities in the response: testing kits. We have also seen generosity on the part of international donors. Some, like the European Union, have offered funding particularly to low-income countries.

The World Bank has released $12 billion in funding and quite a few countries have offered financing. Foundations and pharmaceutical companies have offered their support too.

How will we know when we have COVID-19 under control and that it is safe for us all to stop social distancing?

The responses of individuals, families and households to facilitate the reduction or halt of transmission is one of the biggest adjustments [being made] and the most important part of this response. Right now, we are not certain when we will start to see the end of this outbreak. We have seen some countries, like China, emerge at the other end of the peak and we believe South Korea is on that path. They are being very deliberate in relaxing some of these restrictions. I’ve seen people in China very joyful as they came out into their gardens for the first time in the last few days, but even then, their movement is still limited.

We all need to make sure that when we open up the spaces to allow people to start moving around, we continue to carefully monitor the evolution of COVID-19 on a day-to-day basis for any new infections before we can allow life to go back to normal.

Do you have a final message?

My message is that we’re all in this together. Solidarity, sympathy, and helping and supporting each other are what’s going to bring us out of this outbreak. Starting at the individual level, I’ve been impressed to see how people have offered their time to support others. For example, where [free] movement of people is prohibited, young people have been willing to go and help elderly people get their shopping. We are starting to see more and more of this in African countries too.

People are prepared to share their knowledge and information to support each other and we’ve seen solidarity also among countries. So, for example, the fact that China was prepared to send some of its experts to a European country to help bring to bear quickly the lessons [it had] learned is the sort of international solidarity we expect to see.

One of the most important demonstrations of this solidarity, in my view, is to not only protect ourselves, but to be responsible for protecting others. So, what we have learned about not shaking each other’s hands; not greeting in certain ways; giving up going to church, even if we find that a very important part of our daily life, are demonstrations that we are thinking of other people, even as we think of ourselves. That’s the message that I’d like to leave. If governments announce measures that they think are going to make a difference, let’s not wait until we are policed or chased around to comply. It’s very important that we enforce these important practices that will help to stop the virus.

 For more information on COVID-19, visit www.un.org/coronavirus

Africa Renewal