Stories of resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic

Read inspiring stories of how partner countries are transforming education for millions of children – especially the most vulnerable – as we deal with this extraordinary global health crisis.

July 11, 2022 by GPE Secretariat
5 minutes read
A young student uses hand sanitizing gel in class. Sudan, July 2021. Credit: GPE
A young student uses hand sanitizing gel in class. Sudan, July 2021
Credit: GPE

Pakistan: Getting children back to school

“We were very scared because of the coronavirus spread when schools reopened but then I saw social media posts from the Ministry of Federal Education on Facebook. These interesting posts really helped me learn how to stay safe at school.”

Maryam Bibi, grade 6 student

Pakistan’s Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training, with support from GPE and the World Bank, has been generating grassroots-level awareness to make schools as safe as possible on their reopening.

Through an active communications campaign, students, teachers and parents – especially those living in remote areas – have developed a better understanding of how to maintain healthy hygiene during COVID-19, especially when schools reopen.

The campaign also promoted distance learning content, the importance of learning continuity and reenrollment, the value of girls’ education, and information about how to cope with stress related to the pandemic.

Through national and regional language newspapers, social media and SMS, awareness has been generated to more than 21 million people across the country. A large-scale TV and radio campaign is also helping break geographical and social barriers by creating avenues to reach out-of-school children and empowering communities to address pandemic-related challenges – and ensure that children continue to learn.

Somalia: Supporting the most vulnerable children to continue learning

“During the pandemic, we weren’t able to interact with our teachers in class. But I’m happy that I’m still able to learn through this mobile app. I enjoy the video formats because I can see what’s being explained. The app is very useful, and I can access it while I’m at home.”

Suhayba*, grade 8 student

Somalia’s Ministry of Education, Culture and Higher Education, with the support of GPE and Save the Children, has been able to promote learning continuity during COVID-19 school closures.

An online platform (both website and app) was launched, which hosts video and audio educational content. To date, 200 schools have been registered and over 17,800 students are accessing the platform daily.

To ensure wider coverage, the video and audio lessons were also broadcast in 2020 through national TV and radio channels.

Vulnerable students received radios with memory cards and USB flash drives, which carry all lessons for grades 1 to 8. In total, more than 17,300 radios were distributed. To compensate for limited access to electricity, solar panels were supplied to help students charge and use the radios for their lessons. The audio lessons serve students in hard-to-reach areas, along with marginalized and internally displaced children.

Supporting children with disabilities was also a key focus: GPE supported the production and distribution of over 8,600 copies of braille textbooks, benefiting more than 650 visually impaired students. In addition, 199 students benefited from 387 assistive devices including walking canes, talking calculators, eyeglasses and crutches, helping ensure the most vulnerable children had opportunities to continue learning during school closures.

* Name has been changed

Tanzania: Safe schools for safe learning

During the COVID-19 pandemic, health and hygiene practices have taken on new importance throughout schools in Tanzania. Historically, hygiene-related diseases have been linked to student absenteeism. The increased focus on hygiene practices is helping keep students in school.

Thanks to GPE funding, as well as support from the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, the Tanzanian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has been able to provide clean water, sanitation, and health facilities in primary schools to help avoid the spread of contagious diseases including COVID-19.

The program enabled the construction of over 13,000 latrines along with rainwater storage tanks in 1,100 primary and secondary schools that did not have a reliable water source. Students and teachers are now able to easily adhere to hygiene practices like handwashing before class and while at school.

Through the program’s provision of water, sanitation and health facilities, children are safer at school and are establishing a strong foundation of healthy habits, benefiting them as well as their families and communities.

Tonga: Ready to learn even when disasters strike

“I feel happy that I can study at home for my final exams tomorrow.”

Mosa, 12-year-old student

Tonga is highly susceptible to natural disasters, including cyclones and tsunamis, as well as the effects of climate change, all of which threaten education continuity. The country’s Ministry of Education and Training, with support from GPE and Save the Children, has taken steps to ensure the education system is better prepared to address emergencies of any kind, including the COVID-19 pandemic.

The GPE-funded Tonga Accelerated Resilience Program (TARP) was implemented in 2021 and has already mitigated learning loss and disruption for thousands of Tongan students. When Tonga went into its first protracted COVID-19 lockdown in early 2022, while still reeling from a devastating tsunami, the country’s education system was better positioned to support students to learn from home.

The TARP developed “learn from home” packages, including print, TV, radio and online lessons for students, as well as guidance for teachers and parents to support students to learn remotely.

Since the protracted lockdown began, thousands of children have logged in to the Hama e-Learning Platform to access interactive lessons from home. Lessons have also been broadcast for children over radio and TV by the Ministry, responding to the changing lockdown situation and emphasizing inclusion and child safeguarding.

Local telecommunications companies Digicel and Tonga Communications Corporation have partnered with the Ministry to facilitate access to the online platform during the lockdown. The companies allow students and parents to log in to the platform free of charge, without consuming data while they access lessons, and to watch educational content at home.

Thanks to the support of TARP, more than 20,000 students and their caregivers have access to remote learning resources during lockdown and 362 teachers have the skills to support them. While Tonga can’t stop disasters, it can be better prepared for them by building a more resilient education system.

Read all the country stories in the GPE brochure Stories of resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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What an amazing story, wishing to be part of GPE team one-day.

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