COVID-19 Effects Hit Hard Educational Space

A cocktail of measures aimed at containing the spread of COVID-19 pandemic seem to have worsened Zimbabwe’s already strained education sector.

With thousands infected since the first trace of the contagion in March 2020, the subsequent national lockdown spell doom to the landlocked southern African country.Schools were shut for over nine months, which was a full year of learning lost in 2020. The usual physical teacher-learner lesson delivery was banned, ushering a new normal of digital classrooms.

Being holed up at homes, students and teachers have presented a number of challenges which have changed their mindset over the period, experts say.

To contain the challenges and speed up recovery, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education has rolled out an initiative to identify such persons who have become victims to the pandemic effects. The programme aims at alleviating their stress among other things.

A student teacher from Manama High School in Gwanda district who spoke on condition of anonymity is battling to contain stress induced by lose of her aunt. According to the student the programme has been quite helpful as the pandemic left a trail of destruction in her life.

“I have come across a similar situation where I lost my aunt exactly three weeks ago and it wasn’t easy to accept that she is gone considering how close we were and the fact that she played the role of a parent to me,” says the student teacher.

“It’s so painful that COVID-19 opened a wound to me as I feel helpless. She contributed fees for my studies,” she says. She is now part of the ministry initiative which is beneficial to her.

“The programme being implemented by the Government has been quite helpful as I have managed to be linked with a psychologist and possible links for funding my education” said a Gwanda student teacher

Various teacher unions have reported that several of their members have succumbed to the virus and some are recovering.

However, they stress the need for constant physiological support. Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education director of communications and advocacy, Mr Taungana Ndoro, said the programme aims at cushioning the impact on educational space.

“COVID-19 brought about a number of challenges that include but are not limited to lack of face-to-face learning during the lockdowns. Learners and teachers have experienced various challenges and require a safe space to ventilate their aspirations, expectations, fears and anxieties.”

“Schools have been encouraged to use child-friendly methods to urgently identify learners whose experiences in the community and/or home circumstances may have resulted in them exhibiting signs of trauma, distress, anxiety, fear or disinterest in school because of COVID-19,” says Ndoro.

The initiative extends beyond COVID-19 effects.

“We have put in a robust strategy for the equitable provision of inclusive continuous quality teaching and learning at all times and during emergencies, not just COVID-19,” said Ndoro.

Source: The Citizen Bulletin

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