It is almost apparent that Corona Virus may soon bag the blame for the slow death of Africa’s education sector. Don’t get me wrong on this; things were not all merry and go before corona kicked in. Long before COVID-19, Africa still battled the toll of communicable diseases such as HIV and the recently wound-up Ebola that affected Education. If the latter was absent, hunger and poverty would kick in to supplement the adversities in the continent.
This time around, things may be a little bit tight. The education systems in the continent which has 54 countries have seen an overall paralysis. Most of the funds from the government and other national and international bodies that were projected to be used in the sector have been re-channeled to help buffer citizens from the unforgiving virus. Owing to the lockdowns and the restrictive public health guidelines, the economy of this third-world continent is on its resuscitation bed. The elephant in the room still remains untouched. Will Africa’s Education be the same again?
Now, let us look at some of the untimely challenges that have been occasioned by COVID-19 in Africa’s education sector.
The state of Africa’s Education amid the Corona Virus pandemic
COVID 19 being an abnormal virus brought to the rise numerous changes in the sector. The dream of having the African child a decent education is becoming dimmer by the day. If before COVID-19, there still existed hitches that saw about 40 million youths drop off from the system. It is sad to start imagining where the pandemic has thrown the education system. Here are the three major effects of COVID-19 on Africa’s education sector:
Three major areas in Africa’s education system that have been affected by COVID 19
Interruptions in Africa’s education system’s calendars of Events due to the wide-spreading pandemic
If we were to take a count, since the first cases were confirmed in the different countries in Africa, most learning institutions were unsparingly shut down. Of course, this was innocent and meant to shield the citizens from the then-impending virus. There are several ways to look at it:
One, there was a massive loss of livelihood as learning institutions created jobs for both formal and informal sectors. At the same time, we cannot fail to look at the learner who was discontinued from their daily learning activities.
This interruption being untimely caught everyone off-guard. I can attest to the fact that some students barely even carried enough learning materials home as they thought it was the ordinary short breaks. The academic years had barely been completed. Some of the learners had several days or even weeks to sit their national examinations while others were preparing to do their summative termly examinations.
Learning opportunities and resources may remain wasted because of the Corona Virus pandemic
Apart from the time lost. School fees may end up being spent on the underserved reason. The sessions and semesters were not over by the time the pandemic hit. It would also be ridiculous to ask for carryover of the remaining balances from the unfinished session. The institutions must have spent the same on the recurrent expenditures such as paying off the staff and others like rent and maintenance of the premises.
Again, scholarly and sponsorship opportunities this year may be lost. For starters, most of those opportunities are awarded to learners not only because of academic excellence but also having exemplary performance in other areas like sports, music, drama, or even in creative fairs. Now Extra and co-curricular activities were halted to give way for the implementation of the Public Health guidelines. The candidates eyeing these chances may be forced to scramble for the few that shall be available after the Pandemic curve has flattened.
The plight of the African girl pursuing education during the COVID 19 pandemic
Africans have for the longest time been patriarchal. If you did some digging, you may come to a realization that there has been a lot of gender segregation and discrimination against an African girls especially when it comes to education quotas. Even before this deadly virus came knocking, the fight was still on to see the African girl/woman pursue an education that would secure a brighter future for them.
After the schools were shut down, a lot of such efforts have been watered down. In some communities, girls had to run away from detrimental cultural practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). In such communities where “female circumcision” is usually a well-known vehicle that rides them to early forced marriages. With the closure of schools, these girls have no option. Most of them went back to their homes and have continued facing cruel cultural practices.
At the same time, those that are in other areas where such injurious cultures are a thing of the past have a new monster to slay. Since lockdown saw most of the manual workers and casuals lose a livelihood, they joint the hunt for the dollar. In that mix, some end up succumbing to early marriages in the hope of helping their families survive. That is not all, others are crying over the new pandemic of teenage pregnancies.
While COVID-19 has its own way of presenting brand new challenges, a dying education sector may regress Africa’s economy. A balance has to be stricken to see to it that the gains that have been banked over the past decades from the sector have not been washed to the drain. Yes, prioritize the health sector but do not forget other sectors that equally support the future needs of the economy.