“March 2020 will forever be known as the time all the world’s schools closed their doors.”
These were the words of Lesotho Deputy Minister of Education, the Honorable ‘Mamookho Phiri, at a handover ceremony of COVID-19 equipment and hygiene support on October 16 this year.
The handover, which took place at Thetsane High School, one of Lesotho’s 10 FutureLife-Now! pilot schools, was made possible through COVID-19 emergency funding from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooporation (SDC). It was facilitated by MIET AFRICA, in partnership with Global Hope Mobilization (GLOHOMO) and the Lesotho ministries of Education and Health.
Because of COVID-19 regulations, the handover attendees were limited to school principals, funders and ministerial representatives.
Equipment included face masks, face shields, thermal thermometers, soap, water tanks, and beds. This equipment was identified through a rapid needs assessment, undertaken by GLOHOMO in all FutureLife-Now!
Prior to the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic on 12 March 2020, an event in Malawi involving a handover from a donor would have been a large-scale ceremony, and included ministers, government officials, donors and members of the community.
The small-scale event pledging COVID-19 emergency protective materials to the ministries of Education and Health in Malawi, although no less valuable, illustrated the “new normal”. The event took place on 22 September 2020 at the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST) headquarters in Lilongwe.
The protective materials, made available by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), through its partners MIET AFRICA and Global Hope Mobilization (GLOHOMO), were symbolically handed over by the Honorary Consul for the Swiss Embassy in Malawi, Sylvia Giannacks. The pledge was received by the Deputy Director for School Health, Nutrition, HIV and AIDS in the MoEST,
The scourge of COVID-19 might have disrupted the lives of individuals, societies and governments across the world, but the partners of the Future Life-Now! programme determined that they would not allow the pandemic to halt communication, training and support in the 10 FutureLife-Now! pilot schools. Instead, an effective e-platform was established at all 10 schools in Malawi.
Bukelwa Mandisa Ntlabati, MIET AFRICA’s Country Manager in Malawi, said keeping contact with school communities is critical. “From the onset of lockdown, schools were closed. We were unable to travel, so we were unable to assure the wellness of learners.”
Creating an e-platform means access to the schools and stakeholders through virtual meetings. It also allows nurses in the adjoining clinics to speak to learners without risking the danger close contact brings.
“I can conduct training with educators and learners without compromising anyone’s health,” said Nlabati, “and it is more efficient because we don’t have to travel for many hours to access a school.”
It’s no easy job training almost 9 000 learners while keeping COVID-19 health and safety protocols in place.
But this is what 88 facilitators at Zambia’s 10 FutureLife-Now! schools were tasked with: Providing information to thousands of grade 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 learners about COVID-19 over an eight-day period while ensuring the safety of all concerned.
The training was part of an initiative that included protective materials made available by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), through its partners MIET AFRICA and Global Hope Mobilization (GLOHOMO).
Materials included face masks, soap, face shields, thermal scanners, water tanks, training materials and posters.
The hour long training sessions took place between September 30 and October 7 this year. Educators were supported by Sanny Mulubale, Zambia’s COVID-19 Emergency Response In-Country Coordinator, as well as the two youth facilitators already in place at each school.
In Zimbabwe the coronavirus has had more far-reaching effects than what meets the eye.
The pandemic is devastating the economy and threatening food security, and has been most deeply felt in marginalized communities and rural areas.
It is this that motivated the FutureLife-Now! programme to distribute food packs to its most vulnerable learners at its 10 pilot schools. The distribution was facilitated by MIET AFRICA, and accompanied by advocacy and training on keeping safe during the time of COVID-19.
The exercise had to be carefully planned. The FutureLife-Now! schools are spread over four provinces in Zimbabwe: Matabeleland South, Midlands, Mashonaland East and Mashonaland Central.
“From our base in Harare it might take a couple of hours to get to Mashonaland but it can take the whole day to drive to Matabeleland,” said Zimbabwe’s FutureLife-Now! Country Manager, Aussie Ndlovu. “Distribution was arranged per school and we had to ensure that the gatherings comprised less than 50 people,