October 1, 2020

AVSI helps teachers and parents reopen schools safely

This initiative continues the activities of the “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program,” a project funded by the McGovern-Dole Program of USDA and implemented by WFP and AVSI

The school year started in Ivory Coast on September 14, with children timidly returning back to their classrooms. Precautions such as wearing a mask, frequent handwashing and social distancing are taken seriously and enforced. Teachers are beginning the year with ‘catch-up’ classes to address the interruption which started back in March. AVSI is working alongside teachers, parents and students to ensure a smooth and safe transition back to school and ensuring that education continues. The activity is part of the USDA-funded project, “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program.”

Ivory Coast is one of the few countries in Africa that is reopening schools during the global COVID-19 pandemic. Schools have been closed since March to limit the spread of the virus. While students were at home, and inspired by actions in other countries, the government had revised the education curriculum and organized online lessons. To include as many children as possible in distance learning, AVSI reached rural villages by delivering lessons via radio to complete the 2019/2020 school year.

Reopening schools is a significant challenge as a very small percentage of students have returned to class. At the Primary School Gbagnagassie in Bondoukou, out of the 180 students enrolled, only 38 were present on the first day. The students seemed tense and very aware of following the safety measures: they did not play together for fear of getting sick during their breaks. Children’s behavior mirrors that of their parents back at home. As in other parts of the world, families worry about the safety of their children.

"We know that school is important, but we are afraid to send our children during the pandemic," says Mr. Bini Kouadio, parent. "It is difficult for our children to follow the safety guidelines strictly. However, we trust the teachers and will educate other parents on how to participate in school and still limit the spread of the virus in our schools."

Teachers and staff play an essential role in reopening schools. Disseminating accurate information on proper guidelines enable students, teachers, and parents to be promoters and advocates in preventing and controlling the spread of COVID-19. The government’s policies to prevent the spread of the virus, such as hand washing and social distancing, have been respected in the classroom and on school premises.

"It is an educational tragedy especially for the little ones who are starting their education journey, but we will do everything to face this health crisis and ensure students can learn and grow in school."

Making sure that students properly wear masks and keep them clean remains a challenge. To deal with this situation, AVSI has launched a series of awareness-raising sessions for students, teachers, and parents on the importance of wearing masks and washing and changing them regularly.

“Students are wearing masks to protect themselves and others against COVID-19, but we need to make sure there is proper maintenance as the masks can also nest other bacteria,” says School Principal Ebo Katia Lucien.

Another challenge remains the lack of water and sources of water in schools and villages. Some villages only have a pump, which is sometimes in poor condition making water supply difficult and painful.

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