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Update From Zambia

By Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman
 | Mar 31, 2020

We received this letter from Edith Chisala M. Ng'oman, the chair of ChildFund Zambia and the Literacy Association of Zambia, in which she details the efforts made by her organizations and the government of Zambia in promoting literacy education in the midst of managing the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19). We were inspired by these efforts and wanted to share them with our community.

Greetings. I wish to give you an update on COVID-19 in Zambia.

The Zambian government confirmed the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country on March 18, 2020, with two cases. The number increased to three on March 22 and escalated to 12 as of March 25. Eleven of the 12 cases concern returning Zambians who had traveled to affected countries while one person was infected in-country.

Additionally, the Zambian government declared COVID-19 a pandemic on March 17. Thereafter, all schools, colleges, and universities were closed as of March 20 until further notice.

The government also limited the hours of church services to one with smaller groups of congregants. All bars, nightclubs, cinemas, gyms, and casinos have been closed. The government has also banned large gatherings such as workshops, weddings, and funerals or any event that may pull a crowd above 50 people. Restaurants are operating on take-away and delivery basis.

As the number of cases increased to 12, the president also announced other measures of preventing the spread of the disease, which included the closure of the three international airports for 14 days.

The Literacy Association of Zambia is working with ChildFund International and other partners in sensitizing children and their families and caregivers on the preventative measures announced by the government regarding COVID-19. These messages on prevention and hygienic practices were developed by the World Health Organization and the Ministry of Health and have been translated into six local languages.

The government is also using between 119 and 148 radio stations in the country and other media institutions to disseminate information on COVID-19 info. ChildFund, which is currently housing the Literacy Association of Zambia, is financially supporting the printing of materials and dissemination of information to ensure that it reaches every enrolled household.

This is being done in conjunction with the Zambia News and Information Services, a government media institution and the district Health Management teams. Messages are being transmitted in the local languages using a public address system regarding the prevention, symptoms, response, and numbers to call in case one presents with the symptoms of COVID-19.

In terms of literacy, it will be a challenge, especially for the children and teachers in rural areas where they have limited connectivity. In most cases, the children in rural areas come from economically challenged households and may not have any access to digital devices.

For the children who have access to devices and the families and caregivers who may have computers and laptops, we are trying to share as many materials and resources as possible: We have received electronic resources from the IDC chair, the International Literacy Association, and the education department at our ChildFund. Positive feedback has come from families who are appreciating the initiative.  

The Ministry of General Education also gave a directive to all schools to give enough work to the learners during this period of closure. Schools were given four days to do so before they were officially closed. 

There is also a discussion for the Ministry of General Education, through the Department of Open and Distance Education, to work on supporting the children to continue learning during this COVID-19 closedown of schools. They are working on two systems to support the learners: primary schools (grades 1–7) will be supported through educational radio programs, and secondary schools will be supported through the National E-Learning portal, which is being launched as soon as everything is in place.

Through this strategy, the Ministry of General Education will partner with a national mobile and internet service provider with the hope that, once it is done, learners will be able to access online educational materials and communicate with their teachers. Once this is concluded, the Literacy Association of Zambia will procure radios for the children who are in our areas of operation and where the Active Teaching and Learning Approaches in Schools training were conducted.

We are looking forward to learning more about how we can help the learners during this period as we are not sure about how long schools will remain closed. 

We would like to thank Edith for this update and to invite any members, chapters, or international affiliates to send us updates about the efforts being made by educators, schools, districts, or even larger government bodies.

Stay connected. Share your successes. We’re all in this together.

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