Zambia: Making the return to learning safe and inclusive

Read how GPE, with its partner UNICEF, is helping Zambia weather the educational crisis created by the pandemic and build resilience among children, parents and teachers to face future challenges with confidence.

April 26, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
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3 minutes read
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In this photo, Zambian girls and boys wash their hands to protect against the coronavirus and fill their water bottles from a borehole water pump at Ndingindi Primary School in Nakonde District of Muchinga Province.
In this photo, Zambian girls and boys wash their hands to protect against the coronavirus and fill their water bottles from a borehole water pump at Ndingindi Primary School in Nakonde District of Muchinga Province.
Here, special needs students at Chinsali Primary School in Chinsali District put on face masks and carry backpacks filled with learning materials as they get ready for the school day.
Here, special needs students at Chinsali Primary School in Chinsali District put on face masks and carry backpacks filled with learning materials as they get ready for the school day.
teachers and staff in Chinsali District learn to assemble the new desks for their students.
And here, teachers and staff in Chinsali District learn to assemble the new desks for their students as part of a school upgrade to enhance learning and ensure adherence to COVID-19 safety protocols in school.

All of this, and more, was made possible through the support of the Global Partnership for Education as part of its $500 million COVID-19 emergency response fund.

A rapid support with GPE emergency grants

Like most countries, Zambia shut its schools in March 2020 to try to curb the spread of COVID-19, which has taken such a devastating toll on the world, with millions of lives lost, millions more people thrust into poverty, economies shattered and a cataclysmic disruption to children’s education.

School closures did not just wreak havoc on students’ learning. Children in sub-Saharan Africa and elsewhere have faced increased gender-based violence, teenage pregnancy and child marriage, poorer nutrition, and lifetime earning losses of thousands of dollars per child.

GPE, through its $10 million COVID-19 emergency grant to Zambia, not only helped the school system prepare to reopen schools, but also kept learning going for vulnerable children during the initial various shutdowns (after a full reopening in September 2020, schools were closed again during the last two weeks of January), through multiple interventions.

UNICEF oversees the implementation of this grant and is instrumental in ensuring its activities are carried out effectively.

That’s especially important for children in a country like Zambia, already disadvantaged by the low quality of learning and teaching, a teacher shortage, and insufficient learning materials.

Keeping learning going during closures and after reopening

When schools were closed, GPE supported the development of educational radio programming, including the translation of radio content for the youngest learners into five local languages.

Public awareness and sensitization campaigns were aired on community radio stations to provide psychosocial support and minimize the negative impact of school closures on gender-based violence, child marriage and pregnancy; the radio campaign reached nearly 1 million children and adults.

GPE enabled the purchase of 11,000 solar-powered radios, which will benefit vulnerable students who live in remote areas and are not able to access a school building due to long distance to school, poor economic conditions, early pregnancy and child marriages.

GPE supported the safe return of about 1 million vulnerable and disadvantaged children to nearly 2,000 schools and gave grants to schools to purchase supplies such as water tank, hand washing stations, liquid soap, sanitizers and face masks to protect students and teachers from the negative impact of COVID-19.

Its grant helped train and mentor teachers in how to mitigate the loss of learning during school closures and accelerate learning now that schools are fully open again, children are back in schools and enrollment has increased in many districts.

The grant also supported the drilling of boreholes in 117 schools, giving children access to clean water and sanitation for the first time; it helped build and distribute 15,000 desks, deliver more than 11,000 backpacks and school supplies for the most vulnerable children in remote and hard to reach districts, and provide direct grants to schools, which were used based on schools’ priorities to address the pandemic.

And learning materials for 4.4 million children at the early childhood, primary and lower secondary levels, including children with special needs, were developed and adapted for use during the pandemic and beyond.

With all these efforts, GPE is helping Zambia weather the educational crisis created by the pandemic and build resilience among children, parents and teachers to face future challenges with confidence.

This story was produced with the support of UNICEF Zambia.

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Sub-Saharan Africa: Zambia

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Great support from the GPE; such practical initiatives cannot but show the way to better learning in rural areas.

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