It is always inspiring to hear stories of learners taking matters into their own hands and making decisions that have a positive impact on their lives as well as those of their family and their community.
In the face of hunger and hopelessness brought on by COVID-19, one such learner, a 15-year-old girl named Diana Zariro, made the decision to take charge of her future, and empower herself through her own actions.
In October 2020, due to the serious food shortages facing many families in Zimbabwe, FutureLife-Now! delivered food hampers to the most needy learners in the 10 FutureLife-Now! pilot schools. This helped the children at a critical time, as their guardians were unable to provide food while they were confined to their homes.
Diana, whose parents are communal farmers, was amongst those who benefited from this intervention. There are seven family members in Diana’s household, including her parents and siblings.
Welcome to the Chalimbana Clinic Youth-friendly Corner, situated in Chongwe District in the province of Lusaka in Zambia.
A Youth-friendly Corner is a safe zone for young people. It is a place where adolescents can access health information concerning their lives, and non-judgmental services relating to reproductive health. It is also a healthy environment for “hanging out” and developing some life skills.
This Youth-friendly Corner serves young people from the surrounding learning institutions including Chalimbana University, the Local Government Training Institute, Chalimbana Primary School, and Mukamambo Secondary School, as well as youth from the surrounding villages.
“I am a person who is frank, open and able to communicate with other people,” is how Vanessa Muntanga, a Grade 12 pupil at Mukamambo Secondary School, describes herself. Vanessa says that one of her greatest pleasures is interacting with new people at her local Youth-friendly Corner and learning about physical, social and emotional changes that the human body undergoes during adolescence.
COVID-19 brought with it a serious communication challenge. Lockdowns, restrictions on public gatherings and face-to-face meetings resulted in curbs on all educational activity, including FutureLife-Now! programmes.
In response to this challenge MIET AFRICA assisted the 10 FutureLife-Now! schools in Malawi by establishing an effective e-platform solution. Each school was equipped with solar panels, laptops, projectors and Wi-Fi access, allowing for online communication, meetings and workshops. This has enabled the schools to conduct virtual meetings with their own stakeholders, including learners, educators, parents, local and religious leaders, task team members and civil society organisations, as well as with one another.
One of the schools that has benefited from the installation of the e-platforms is Umbwi Secondary School in Dedza district. Dave Mchakama is the youth facilitator at the school. He prides himself on utilising the e-platform to provide civic education to students at the school.
The COVID-19 pandemic presented a host of challenges to Lesotho’s schooling, including its FutureLife-Now! programme, which depends on schools as entry points to reach and support young people.
But, as in the other Future Life-Now! pilot countries, technology came to the rescue. With technical assistance from MIET AFRICA and COVID-19 emergency support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), the 10 FutureLife-Now! pilot schools were equipped with solar power, Wi-Fi and the necessary hardware (including a laptop, data projector and screen) to enable ongoing interaction. Utilizing online or e-platforms such as Zoom and MS Teams, meetings and workshops were able to continue during lockdown and school closures.
According to Rantsane Kuleile, Lesotho’s FutureLife-Now! Country Manager, every cloud has a silver lining. “COVID-19 has been a game changer, in that we got to appreciate the important role played by technology in teaching and learning. These effective e-platforms have been established to allow for online communication and capacity-building sessions both by the MIET AFRICA Lesotho in-country team as well as nurses in the nearby health facilities.”
As part of a coronavirus emergency response in the four FutureLife-Now! pilot countries, MIET AFRICA developed a communication and advocacy strategy to reach young people, their families, and broader communities with factually accurate information on the virus.
This included introducing radio programmes as a component of the FutureLife-Now! programme, because radio can be used to inform, educate, advocate and promote social learning, as well as entertain communities.
The programming included a 20-episode radio programme on COVID-19 called Together – We can beat it, which ran from August to December 2020; two interrelated programmes on comprehensive sexuality education in partnership with UNFPA and UNESCO which ran between November 2020 and January 2021; and a programme on climate change, Our Changing Climate – Our Time to Act!, developed in collaboration with UNITAR and broadcast in Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe from late November 2020 until February 2021.