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Tough times for public schools during COVID-19

Tough times for public schools during COVID-19

Since the start of the Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) earlier this year, millions of people have been infected and forced into quarantine. This included students and every other non-infected employee. The quarantine is supposed to prevent people from leaving their houses so that they do not get infected or infect others around them. And so far, there is no cure for the coronavirus. 

People are protecting themselves by wearing masks, avoiding public places and washing their hands more frequently than usual.

Especially schools and students are highly affected: since, the customary face-to -face educational arrangement provision is banned due to preventing the spread of the virus. In addition, there is no certain way of knowing and control, if a young student is competent to cover online school materials.  Moreover, schools cannot be certain to promote students to the next grade based on the written tests students acquire online.

A big question parents have right now is how students can go back to school safely during COVID-19.

And even if students go back, how can schools prevent infections with COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases? There is currently no vaccine to prevent COVID-19 infection. As with any respiratory virus, students and school personnel can protect themselves and others by taking every day common sense actions: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.

For now, some private schools in Addis Ababa and schools around the world have also been closed due to the virus but schools still teach their students by using their own websites or apps and make virtual lessons through applications such as WebEx meetings, Google classrooms, Zoom and others.

Adwa Ber is a public school administered under Yeka Sub City.  A 6th grader,  who has two siblings and is ranked  3rd best in his class in this academic year and  aspires to become  a commercial pilot said,  “We are currently learning through Telegram,“ he added, “I study before the teacher hands  in  assignments then do the work on a piece of paper then send a photo of the task through telegram on time,” he said, if he has troubles with some of the exercises, he asks his older sister,  an eleventh grader who  attends Magic Carpet or his father for help. He adds that he uses his father’s phone to do his schoolwork.  He said, “Some of my friends who do not have smartphones use the academic books the school lends at the beginning of the school year.”

He adds, or else they get the same exercises from friends who have access to Telegram then hand it in personally to the teacher by going to school. Exams are also sent in through telegram but then corrected by parents. Parents receive the correction a few days after the exams are written.

Another student an 8th grader, who is 2nd best in class and aims to become a doctor,  says she follows her studies by using  a  television channel provided by the government  called Afrohealthia in addition to telegram like her fellow students. She added: “Afrohealthia teaches and asks us questions at home, which we then answer on paper and send to our teachers through Telegram or personally.  She also said, she is getting prepared for the 8th grade National Exam and doing practice questions. She said, “However, she is not certain when the actual exam will be.”

Melesachew Aweke, the vice principal at Adwa Ber said, “The school is trying to support the parents by giving out orientations on health precautions regarding the COVID-19 pandemic to the students and their parents, motivating them to stay at home, wash their hands, use their time to study effectively and to hand in assignments on time.”

There is Government’s scheme of supporting underprivileged students, through an initiative of First Lady Zinash Tayachew, a feeding program called, ‘Yenatoch Wog’. Melesachew said, “Students with more needs were provided with breakfast and lunch at Adwa Ber School.”  

During the COVID-19 crisis, in addition to supporting students academically, families in need were provided with basic needs by a non-profit organization. Melesachew said, “Eneho Fikir provided cooking oil, flour and packs of cookies to families who are not able to afford basic needs.” He added, “As such support is vital during such crisis, shout out was given to the Eneho Fikir.”

Eneho Fikir, is a nonprofit organization brought together by 23 philanthropist friends who support two schools with feeding programs as a pilot program.

He adds, “The school prints exams for few students who do not have Telegram. We personally hand it to them even though it is not recommended.  Besides, the Libraries are open so that children can take books whenever they want.” Teachers send questions minimum once or maximum twice to students based on the subjects. When it comes to Math and English, it is sent more frequently than science and social studies subjects.

He adds, “Before COVID-19, 8th grade students were provided enhancement programs to prepare them for the National Exam. After COVID-19, by collaborating with Yeka Sub City, we provided Model exams to 43 students out of 49.

The COVID-19 has changed the traditional learning setting where students get classroom educations.  He said, “During this time, our school did its maximum support to students.  However, we are not certain, if students can be promoted to their next classes in the coming academic year. This is a direction, we are going to acquire from the Education Bureau.”

Ed.’s Note: The author is an intern writer at The Reporter.

Contributed by  Messay Zinnahbizu