“I look at the learners I work with as brothers and sisters. In the end they trust me with their day-to-day ideas and challenges,” says Precious Kasangu, a youth facilitator based at Mponera Community Day Secondary School (CDSS) in Dowa district. The school is one of 10 pilot schools participating in the FutureLife-Now! Programme.
To ensure that pertinent issues facing young people in schools are comprehensively addressed, the programme enlisted 10 youth facilitators to work with the pilot schools and form a link between learners on the one side, and educators, healthcare providers and parents on the other. Kasangu is one of these facilitators.
He says that young people feel appreciated and understood when fellow young people attend to their problems rather than channelling their daily issues to teachers and parents. With the latter, they often feel disempowered or judged when seeking assistance.
“But without darkness we would never know the warmth of light. Actually, I see light at the end of the tunnel.” These are the words of Wadzanai High School teacher, Rati Kanye, referring to the installation of solar power at the administration block of her school.
Through the FutureLife-Now! Programme, solar systems were installed in 10 pilot schools in four different provinces in Zimbabwe, which included Wadzanai High. The systems bring power to the schools’ admin blocks and will be instrumental in supporting e-learning, as the world shifts in that direction, especially in the time of coronavirus.
Despite the unprecedented disruption caused by the coronavirus, some educators in Zimbabwe identified positive benefits from the circumstances. The Ministry of Education gave assistance to schools to help combat and protect their learners from the virus. Added to that, FutureLife-Now! gave supplementary assistance to its pilot schools that was most welcome and helped alleviate the situation.
While 2020 was a challenging year for people across the world because of the coronavirus, for the Lusitu Secondary School in Zambia, it was a year that also brought hope and change.
Thanks to the Future Life-Now! Programme, and with support from MIET AFRICA and the SwissAgency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), a range of resources to fight the pandemic were channelled to the school.
The school was extremely grateful for all the help but what excited everyone the most was the improved sanitation through the installation of showers and taps. “These have really changed the lives of our female learners,” said principal of the school, Lincoln Mungaila.
The showers did not arrive overnight. Initially the school had a hand pump that was situated away from the school premises making it difficult for both learners and teachers to access water.
In April 2020, MIET AFRICA realized that school closures, travel restrictions and other challenges linked to the COVID-19 pandemic were making it impossible to continue its FutureLife-Now! programmes in Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe as they were originally planned.
MIET AFRICA also realized that the pandemic was creating a major challenge for countries: How to get practical, accessible and factually accurate information about coping with COVID-19 out to the public.
One solution was to use radio, with linked SMS messaging, to reach schools and other audiences across each of the countries. The venture into radio started with 20 weekly programmes called: COVID-19: Together We Can Beat it!. From mid-August 2020, these ran on national stations in all four countries. This partnership project, to strengthen SADC and Member States’ responses to the pandemic, was supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).
In 2020 countries around the world grappled with whether to open schools, and how to open them safely in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. After Lesotho’s lockdown was over, the question of school re-opening was not as simple as setting a date and picking up from where things left off. The path to reopening schools would take planning, preparation, and commitment.
Many learners and teachers were faced with different challenges as a result of lockdown-related school closures.
Thato Tlalinyane, a learner from Mampota High School explained: “Many young girls got pregnant and were not able to go back to school. Many parents lost their jobs, and some students could not go back to school because now their parents were not able to pay their school fees when schools reopened.”
Thato added that she had to rely on self-discipline when facing the situation she found herself in as a result of school disruptions.