Implementing Education Projects During a Pandemic
When global school closures left 1.6 billion children without a place to learn we realized that the projects we are funding in sub-Saharan Africa would face substantial obstacles. Many countries in sub-Saharan Africa have been able to mitigate the health impacts of COVID through strict policies built on their experiences from Ebola in 2014/16. However, this has resulted in steep economic costs and loss of schooling for millions of children in areas where remote learning is often impossible.
While schools are now partially re-opening, it’s unclear if there will be a second wave of COVID, and how it may impact students. Further, it’s unclear if children left to home-school will return to the classroom at all. Overall, the uncertainty is high and as one partner told us, everyone is “pivoting” to find the best solutions in the circumstances. Of course, this is not unique to sub-Saharan Africa. It’s happening around the world and everyone has had to adjust.
Amazingly, our partners are addressing new needs head-on, including measures like switching out the cost of uniforms for radios, setting up hand washing stations, and providing communities with information on health and safety measures that would be crucial to keep COVID at bay.
As our partners figured out what to do, we supported them with as much flexibility as possible.
We’ve always felt a that solid partner relationship was crucial to achieving our goals, and in 2020 this became more important than ever.
Here’s an update on projects our partners are currently implementing:
1. We are partnering with War Child Canada to improve teacher and student access to quality educational resources in rural South Sudan.
The project goal is to train 100 teachers on our MLL and give around 1,600 children, along with 200 girls not enrolled in school, access to fun and interactive learning resources. The problem is that COVID confined all children to their homes, while teacher strikes (now resolved) compounded the uncertainty of when learning would resume. We have agreed to an extension of the project so that once school resumes, hopefully later this autumn, students and teachers will be able to experience the fun of the MLL.
2. In Togo, we are supporting a girls’ empowerment program to teach adolescent girls about their bodies and their rights.
The objective is to protect them from sexual and gender-based violence and early pregnancy – a key cause in the high dropout rate. Our partner, Crossroads International, planned to set up girls’ clubs equipped with MLLs, but school closures meant that the clubs also had to shut down. Unfortunately, more time at home also meant greater risk of sexual violence for some marginalized teens. However, Crossroads’ field partner has been in touch with at-risk girls and has continued with plans to create appropriate content to upload onto the MLLs. At the time of writing, schools in Togo remain closed except for university and secondary students writing national exams.
3. In a slight departure from our usual partner engagement, we are supporting two projects with the Stephen Lewis Foundation this year – in Zimbabwe and Zambia – each with a grant of $50,000.
Both projects address children and young adolescents affected by HIV/AIDS, and both use our MLL to enhance access to quality educational resources for academics and information on sexual and reproductive health. Some budgeting changes in the Zimbabwe project meant that our partner purchased radios instead of school uniforms so that children could participate in home schooling programs. The local partner has also been working with teachers to offer refresher courses and training on the MLL in advance of school opening (as of mid-September, school is only open for students taking national exams). Schools in Zambia will re-open at the end of the month.
For more information, please visit our website where we have detailed descriptions outlining the goals and objectives of each project and why we are working with a particular partner.