Zambia recorded its first confirmed COVID-19 case in mid-March, and as of mid-August nearly 10,000 additional cases have been reported. In an effort to contain the virus, the government of Zambia has taken preventive measures, including closing schools. This in turn has disrupted learning for over 4.2 million students. To mitigate the impact of this situation and ensure students can continue to learn, the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) has been working with partners to implement a COVID-19 emergency response and recovery plan.
Zambia received a US$10 million COVID-19 emergency grant from GPE to support interventions that are fully aligned with this plan. GPE acted swiftly by processing and approving the government’s application within a few days of receiving it, as supporting education systems from the onset of the pandemic is the best way to protect the most vulnerable students.
The GPE-funded program promotes continuous learning for students during the stay-at-home orders, along with support for a sustainable and safe learning environment across the country when schools re-open. Additionally, the program aims to fortify Zambia’s education system to help the country respond effectively to future crises.
Reaching the most vulnerable students
To ensure students can continue learning during the school closures, the program aims to strengthen the MoGE’s existing distance and alternative learning system by supporting the production, dissemination and delivery of education through radio programs.
The program will primarily focus on radio-based learning as an initial step to respond quickly, inclusively and with maximum reach. A total of 4.4 million students from early childhood education to lower secondary school will be reached through this program. The content of the radio program will be developed for the full school year so that students will be able to continue learning should school closures be extended.
The GPE program recognizes that not all students have the same access to remote learning platforms. Therefore, vulnerable students, including girls and children from low-income households, will receive solar radios and SD cards with pre-recorded lessons, to ensure access to distance learning content even in areas with poor or no radio frequency coverage. Children with special education needs will be provided with adapted tablets to access remote learning alongside their peers.
Supporting teachers to deliver quality education
Teachers are affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in often unanticipated ways. Keeping students engaged through distance learning, as well as monitoring and assessing progress without prior experience can prove challenging.
To overcome this, teachers will be trained on providing support and tools, as well as on engagement with students through distance learning. Additional training on how to use simple technologies - including WhatsApp, SMS, and radio broadcast phone ins - to monitor students’ performance will allow for teachers to connect with children who may be at a higher risk of dropping out of school.