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Schooling in the time of COVID-19

One of the tricky consequences of the COVID-19 is on schooling. In Ethiopia, it has been more than a month now since schools and universities are closed. In the Western world, the consequences on education is less tricky thanks to the internet and other technologies. Who would have thought and prepared for classes to be shut down so suddenly?

I wonder how the situation with education interruption is going to be dealt with. Except for yesterday, which marked a total of seventeen cases in a single day, new cases in Ethiopia are showing in twos and in threes every 24 hours. This makes you wonder how long one needs to wait to take drastic measures such as a complete lock down. It makes you wonder when these two and three cases are going to stop showing up by the day. If the number of new cases were as big as the ones reported in Russia, which saw ten-thousand new cases in a matter of few days, the wake-up call would have been much harder and the measures much harder as well. In several places in our capital city, one can easily notice that life is going on as usual. It seems that people have forgotten about the situation. I think the number of two and three cases have a role to play in this.

Coming back to the situation in education, I have to say that the current shut down of schools can be considered as an extended school break for the students. Particularly those students in public schools do not benefit from a stronger follow-up from their schools as those in private schools. It would surprise me if there is a public school in the country sending regular messages, updates and school materials via Medias such as Telegram or Emails to their students. The government put in place Television and Radio programs for students to follow their education. How many are seriously following these education programs? What are the schools doing to make sure that students are properly following these programs? And besides, do these programs even cover all syllabus of all 12 school grades? These questions remain to be answered.

Private schools are more fortunate. At least, students are likely to have the phones and internet connections required to receive regular updates from their schools and follow their education accordingly. But even these need the constant reminders and proper follow-ups of parents and other family members to be able to focus and study their school materials. How many parents and other family members are committed in doing so?

The trickiest and saddest part I have heard is that some schools are thinking of forcing all of their students to repeat the year in the coming academic year. I think that is very sad and an unreasonable thing to do. After all, the students have covered two-third of the year’s syllabus before the spread of the virus. Why not evaluate students only based on the covered syllabus once the COVID-19 situation is over? I guess one needs to be flexible with situations. If the students are made to repeat classes, it’s like the whole year did not matter. One year will be wasted in their lives. Hard earned tuition fees will be wasted in vain. One needs to also think about all those hard working and brilliant students who have worked day and night during the year. Are they also going to repeat classes? And besides, it is unfair for only students in some schools to finish this academic year and for students in other schools to repeat the year. After all, the virus did not come only for the selected few. Another option would be to continue from where the students have stopped once the COVID-19 madness is over and make sure students to do get summer breaks and other breaks in the coming academic year. But one way or another, students should not be made to pay hard for something that is beyond their control.

Contributed by Tsion Taye
Contributed by Tsion Taye