There can be many barriers to children staying in school and returning following COVID-19–related closures. And sometimes it can be as simple as not having a school bag.
Twelve-year-old Josphat Chiluba, a grade 3 learner in Zambia’s Shiwangandu District who loves studying math and English, is glad to now have a backpack for his school material.
“I used to put all my books and pencils in a plastic bag, and most of the time I would lose my pencils because when the plastic bag would develop holes in it, the pencils would drop,” he says. “I would then have to ask my friends for a pencil and or my mother would have to buy me new pencils every other time. I am happy with my bag because I can secure my books and my pencils without having to worry about them getting lost as I walk to and from school.”
Of course, it takes more than a school bag to help children stay in school. Under the Global Partnership for Education (GPE) funding to Zambia, coordinated through UNICEF, more than 117,920 bags have been distributed to children along with 134,000 school kits, targeting some of the most marginalized provinces in the country.
In addition, school desks and school grants are helping schools open with better capacity to distance pupils and provide handwashing facilities.
Josphat’s principal at Kamangu Community School, Ms. Charity Mulongesa, said that the new bags from the ministry, supported by GPE through UNICEF, are proving a strong motivation, boosting attendance and even participation in after-school classes.
The bags were given to the most vulnerable in the community and these families were identified through the village secretary and local church committees.