One of the most visible consequences of Covid-19 has been its impact on education. In the UK, we have seen our children’s education regularly cycle between in-person and online classes. While this moving into the virtual classroom may have its shortcomings and can at times undoubtedly be frustrating, it does at least offer an alternative that provides some of the benefits of in-person, classroom instruction. Unfortunately, in many countries all over the world virtual learning is simply not a feasible option.
For many countries that have been forced to close schools due to Covid-19, such as Mozambique, students have experienced a profound disruption to their education that has now spanned nearly a full calendar year. In Mozambique in particular, schools were closed in April 2020, and now in 2021 they have yet to reopen. As a result, millions of school-aged children have seen their education enter a state of limbo and continue to eagerly await being able to re-enter the classroom and resume their education.
Fortunately, in Mozambique there does appear to be a light at the end of the tunnel, as the Mozambican government recently announced that schools are scheduled to reopen in February 2021. However, this welcome announcement also came with a caveat that schools that did not meet the government’s hygienic standards would be at risk of closure, meaning students would see even further disruption to their education. Seeing an opportunity, World Jewish Relief collaborated with our local partner, ADPP Mozambique, to apply for and receive funding from the START Fund to carry out an intervention that would address this critical issue for some of Mozambique’s most vulnerable students and families.
Following an assessment, we decided to carry out a targeted intervention in Sofala province, where we would reach communities whose lives had previously been uprooted by the devastating Cyclone Idai in 2019. Many of these families are still living in temporary resettlement camps and their school aged children have already experienced lengthy disruptions to their education in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, meaning they have even more to lose by any further interruptions to their schooling.
To ensure students in these communities would be able to return to school in February, we coordinated with the local educational administrators and government officials to provide each school with the following items: handwashing stations and plenty of soap, disinfectant sprays, and thermometers to monitor the temperature of students and staff before entering school grounds. This combination of items will allow school administrators, teachers, and students to take proactive steps to ensure their school is sanitised regularly and maintains the proper level of hygiene to remain open and keep all students and staff as safe as possible.
One child impacted by this project is Lino Manuel (pictured above), who is enrolled to start 3rd grade at a primary school in the district of Chimoio. Lino, an orphan, lives with his grandmother who has brought him up from a young age, amid enormous difficulties. Volatile weather conditions have reduced his family’s assets to nothing, and without even basic supplies, he had no hope that his education would ever resume. Lino told the ADPP team: ‘I left home early the other morning, as I had been informed by the school principle that they were safely reopening. I didn’t know exactly what kind of support was waiting for me, and hadn’t imagined it would be something so useful. Now I am very happy, as this support means I can be sure that I will be attending classes again soon’.
To complement the on-the-ground cleaning of schools, we are also carrying out a ‘Back to School’ campaign to promote proper sanitisation and cleaning habits that prevent the spread of Covid-19. Through radio spots and a team of community mobilisers (pictured above), school aged children and their families will be informed of the steps being taken to bring schools’ safety levels up to government standards and assure them that it is safe for their children to re-enter the classroom and properly resume their long-interrupted education.
In addition to educational aspects of the project, we are also striving to support particularly vulnerable families in the resettlement camps by providing them with the necessary inputs to practise subsistence farming. By providing 270 families with items such as hoes and a mixture of seeds, including maize, beans, and various vegetables, we will provide a path for them to take steps to generate a food supply source for themselves. Our belief is that by providing the subsistence farming inputs to those that can use them, we will see longer-term effects than a one-time distribution of a food package.
Classmates Carmen and Joana (above) describe feeling motivated and safe to resume their schooling.