May 22, 2020

children go back to school after weeks of COVID-19 shutdown

Thousands of students, including the beneficiaries of AVSI’s project “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program,” head to class wearing masks and keeping social distancing 

On May 25, in Ivory Coast, thousands of children, including the beneficiaries of AVSI’s project “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program,” headed back to class after weeks of school closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The West African country that has already reported 2,300 positive cases of coronavirus and 30 deaths became one of the first in the continent to re-open schools. Confident that learning can continue following health and safety guidelines, the Ministry of Education put in place a rotating system with upper classes (3rd, 4th, and 5th grades) going to school on certain days and the lower levels (1st and 2nd grades) on others. Children have to wash their hands before entering their school, wear masks at all times, sit six feet apart, and have bottles of hand sanitizer within reach.

"Before reopening their doors, the primary public schools shared with principals and teachers how to implement the proposed measures by the Ministry of Education. Schools cleaned the classrooms and schoolyard areas to welcome the students back, following the new rotation system."

Schools with smaller enrollment numbers can accept all students back following prevention guidelines such as social distancing. Schools with more significant enrollment numbers do not have enough desks and benches to ensure that all students keep their distance from one another during class time, so they also have to use the rotating system where students alternate which days they can attend school. 

On days where the students cannot go to school, they can have access to primary education through radio. The initiative “My Class at Home” includes a radio show called “Little Stories of Uncle Marco,” in which students, teachers, and hosts read Ivorian short stories and tales. The radio activity is also part of the “Integrated School Feeding and Literacy Program,” a project funded by the McGovern-Dole Program of USDA and implemented by WFP and AVSI to foster the ability of children from kindergarten to 5th grade to learn and practice reading skills. 

"Children are slowly returning to school," says Bahati. "The first week, schools realized that only some students returned because some parents did not have the correct information about the reopening procedure. A large number of the absences are also due to children going to the field to work, having done so while schools were closed.”

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