Guinea’s schools and the COVID-19 pandemic

To curb the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector, the government of Guinea developed a response plan that has been implemented with support from all the partner organizations active in the sector. Read how their coordinated response helped ensure the continuity of learning and a safe reopening of the country’s schools.

March 09, 2021 by Bahogwerhe Matabaro Ephraim, UNICEF Guinée
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4 minutes read
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Students at a school in Mamou, Guinea, wearing masks and practicing social distancing Credit: Aboubakar Sidiki, Dec. 2020
Students at a school in Mamou, Guinea, wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Credit: Credit: Aboubakar Sidiki, Dec. 2020

Guinea reported its first case of COVID-19 on March 12, 2020. A few days later, the Guinean government declared a state of health emergency and, on March 24, 2020, ordered all of the country’s schools to close.

As a result, 14,326 schools were closed. This measure affected nearly 3 million students from preschool to the secondary level in a country where, according to the 2016 Multiple Indicators Cluster Survey (MICS) of Guinea, almost 1.5 million children between the ages of 5 and 16 (44%) were already not in school.

The government’s response plan and financial support from GPE

In an effort to curb the pandemic, a response plan was developed and has been implemented with support from all the partner organizations active in this sector. The plan calls for a coordinated response aimed at ensuring the continuity of the learning process and safely reopening the country’s schools. The Global Partnership for Education (GPE) approved a US$7 million grant in early June 2020 through its COVID-19 accelerated funding window to support the plan. UNICEF is the grant agent.

Coordination of the response has been made possible by reactivating the education cluster and by producing, distributing, and publicizing handbooks, posters, pamphlets, and other training, communication and informational materials on COVID-19 prevention.

Monthly coordination meetings and joint follow-up missions have strengthened intrasectoral dialogue during this emergency and have supported the work involved in monitoring and reporting on the steps taken under the response plan to reduce the impact of the pandemic in the education and training sector.

Support tailored to students’ needs

In order to ensure the continuity of learning, lessons have been produced and broadcast over television, radio, and the MBOORE digital platform that has been developed to enable students to continue their studies via the Internet.

In areas where there is no radio or television coverage and no Internet signal, hardcopy instructional materials have been prepared and distributed to students.

Presentation by the Minister of Education of a certificate in recognition of UNICEF’s work to support continued learning. Credit Aboubakar Sidiki, Nov. 2020
Presentation by the Minister of Education of a certificate in recognition of UNICEF’s work to support continued learning.
Credit:
Credit: Aboubakar Sidiki, Nov. 2020

These materials have provided 1,843,689 children with remote learning opportunities, thanks primarily to GPE funding but also to resources provided by the government and other partner organizations.

In order to help reopen schools safely, UNICEF has distributed handwashing kits to all public and community preschools, primary and lower secondary schools. Grants have also been provided to regional education inspectorates to help them produce and distribute one washable mask for every child in uninfected areas and two washable masks for each child living in an infected area.

Public service announcements on the pandemic and the measures taken to permit a safe return to the classrooms have been produced and broadcast in radio and television spots in six national languages, French, and sign language for students, parents and the community at large.

A safe reopening of the country’s schools

School personnel have been trained in preventive and hygiene measures, psychosocial support and principles of non-stigmatization, remedial instructional approaches, and methods of adapting the school calendar to the conditions created by the pandemic.

In the run-up to the safe reopening of schools for the 2020-2021 academic year, the Ministry of National Education and Literacy, UNICEF, and the other partners have carried out a second national social mobilization campaign to promote the return of all students and the mass enrollment of new students, focusing on the most vulnerable and marginalized.

The return to school began on December 1, 2020, when 99% of schools opened their doors. The campaign has been carried out in 8 administrative regions, 33 prefectures, and all 305 rural communes in the country. At least 16,000 supervisors, teachers, and parents participated in the campaign.

The opening ceremony of the second national social mobilization campaign to promote the return of all students and the mass enrollment of new students
The opening ceremony of the second national social mobilization campaign to promote the return of all students and the mass enrollment of new students.
Credit:
Credit: UNICEF Guinea

The sudden closure of schools severely disrupted learning and upended the lives of children, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. The fallout from COVID-19 may jeopardize the hard-won gains made in educating the children of the world and the children of Guinea, in particular.

Two major initiatives to mitigate the effects of COVID-19 on the education system will be launched in the coming months. One focuses on the construction or rehabilitation of classrooms and water points, while the other deals with the distribution of food rations.

Following the Guinean government’s confirmation of a troubling new Ebola outbreak in the Nzérékoré Region in southeastern Guinea, UNICEF is working closely with national and regional education authorities to coordinate the preparation and implementation of the sectoral response while strengthening the mechanisms established under the GPE’s COVID-19 accelerated grant for combating COVID-19 in schools.

To learn more about how the resources provided via the COVID-19 grant are being used:

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Guinea

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