Taissa and children like her in Guinea-Bissau still have many dreams, but these had to be put on hold while schools around the country were closed on several occasions to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
On March 3, 2021, all schools in Guinea-Bissau finally reopened their doors after a total of 23 weeks of closure since the start of the pandemic.
The government of Guinea-Bissau, with the support of its partners, has taken several steps for a safe return to school of all personnel and learners. GPE has been supporting these efforts since July 2020 with a $3.5 million emergency grant, overseen by UNICEF.
Aside from continuing to distribute basic hygiene and preventative supplies (bleach, soap, masks) and adding handwashing stations in schools throughout the country, the government developed a COVID protocol to guide schools on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and respond in case of infections, particularly in the areas most affected by school closures: the capital Bissau and the region of Biombo.
Posters were displayed in schools to raise the awareness of communities to stay safe against the virus.
This was accompanied by training for staff in public and community schools and civil society actors in the implementation of contingency plans.
A back-to-school campaign was launched in February to reassure populations that schools were ready and safe, and that teachers and students could resume face-to-face lessons.
Addressing the needs of at-risk children through TV and radio lessons
Sadly, the pandemic has exacerbated the dire situation of some children, especially girls, leading in some cases to increased violence.
In response, the government developed a training program on preventing gender-based violence in schools, and so far has trained 266 school officials (directors, teachers, inspectors, school management committees) on this program. It has also promoted this campaign through leaflets and posters in schools and in communities.
During school closures, the ministry of Education produced lessons broadcast on television through the project “ABC Projeto Educativo Audio Visual” to keep children engaged in learning. The lessons helped disseminate key messages on hygiene and health habits, as well as basic education essentials on literacy and numeracy.
To reduce the production costs, the ministry recently signed an agreement with the national television.