The nationwide school closure disrupted learning for more than 4.4 million children and adolescents and interfered with the provision of critical services to millions of children and youth, including school feeding programs for disadvantaged children.
The need for remedial learning and catch-up classes tailored to the level of children’s ability/understanding after reopening of school remains critical. Education partners are considering a combination of distance and classroom teaching to ensure continued education for all children.
Prolonged school closure is likely to expose children especially girls at increased risk of teenage pregnancy, sexual abuse, child marriage and other harmful practices. Major reasons for not returning to school after reopening include but not limit teenage pregnancies and early marriages forced by parents, lack of interest and motivation by learners after six-month schools’ closure, children help parents fend for food by doing piece work, relocation of parents to fishing camps or other areas not accessible to nearby schools, sickness and disability. Most of the schools in the rural areas are under-resourced and ill-equipped to provide support to the students learning at home and parents are unable to support children’s learning. This has widened the equity gap between those who can afford the virtual learning and those who cannot , potentially leading to life-long negative impact.
Reopening of schools in September 2020 required additional support and ongoing monitoring to ensure all preventive measures are followed by the schools and learners.
Adherence to COVID-19 preventive measures and MoGE guidelines, including social distancing, handwashing and wearing the masks is a big problem for many schools, especially in rural remote areas due to lack of safe water and handwashing facilities, inadequate classroom facilities and lack of additional desks, unbelief by population that COVID-19 is real.
The Early Child Education (ECE) level has reported challenges in ensuring physical distancing among the young learners whose curricular is play-based. In many communities, children in the ECE programme are yet to return to school, as parents fear that the teachers will not be able to manage the preschoolers.
The Ministry of General Education (MoGE) COVID-19 Response and Recovery Plan highlights the continuity of learning as its core priority and has presented a series of education delivery options and strategies. Education partners are monitoring schools to ensure adherence to COVID-19 protection and prevention measures and have. supported MOGE with circulation of the Guidelines to Support Re-Opening of Schools.
Education Sector partners conducted comprehensive ‘Back-to-School’ awareness raising and sensitization campaign with a particular emphasis for girls’ return to schools. Sector partners supported airing of COVID-19 prevention messages through community radio stations in Southern and Western provinces alongside continued literacy learning through 515 literacy lessons aired on community radio stations and reading camps.
A total of 8,500 stories have been produced by teachers and 178 stories by parents to support continued literacy for grade 1 to 4 learners by World Vision. Support to continued literacy learning through 515 literacy lessons aired on community radio stations and Reading Camps.
More than 35,081 learners (17,052 boys and 18,029 girls) in Gwembe and Shangombo received through school feeding program.
Started implementation of education response program by UNICEF together with MoGE and partners in 20 districts of five provinces funded by Global Partnership for Education through establishment of 180 boreholes, procurement of 11,000 solar radios with SD cards, procurement and provision of 15,000 desks, teaching and learning materials (student’s packs) to benefit 134,000 learners, and PPE supplies to schools, procurement of video conferencing equipment for 10 provincial centers, awareness raising and back to school campaigns.
Education partners trained over 200 community facilitators on Emergent Literacy and Math at Home (ELM at Home) and conducted ELM lessons for ECE and primary grade learners.
British Council Zambia has launched the digital library of educational resources through which learners can access learning materials by registering online. The program was free for only one month.
Ongoing monitoring at schools by MoGE, CAMFED, Save the Children, ZANEC and other partners to assess the situation in schools after reopening and adherence to protection and prevention measures.
VVOB Assessment on Learning Loss as a result of COVID-19 and schools’ closure conducted among children of 3-5 grades in Eastern and Southern provinces of Zambia. The major results of assessment are the followings: a) 2020 has been a year where 3-5 grade learners made little or no progress on basic skills; b) school enrollment (3-5 grades) dropped by 4,67 per cent; c) at least 16 per cent of G3-G5 learners drop a reading level (E&S: 38.346 learners); d) 10, 7, 12 and 6 per cent of G3-G5 learners lost the skills to do addition, subtraction, multiplication or division, respectively.
Back to School Campaign conducted by Save the Children to prioritize education and return to school, especially for girls. The major reasons of not returning to school are teenage pregnancies and early marriages, relocation of parents for sources of living, lack of interest and motivation by learners, child work, sickness and disability, etc.
Absence of empirical data, including disaggregated data on children and schools per area, age and type of interventions and information on children’s access to education through different modalities (TV, radio, e-learning, self-study materials).
Education partners have reported exorbitant airtime costs for radio programmes in addition to lack of zero rate arrangements with mobile network operators. This has resulted in high costs of operation requiring additional resources to ensure continuity and spread across the country.
Lack of communication infrastructure and electricity coverage in rural districts and power outages in urban areas continue to affect children’s access to virtual educational lessons.