As the pandemic keeps raging around the world, it has become more and more evident that access to distance learning is uneven, with huge disparities based on income and geography. Globally, parents struggle to fill the gap, and there is a well-founded fear that the most vulnerable children will not catch up with their learning goals. At the beginning of the Summer, AVSI-USA launched the campaign “Let’s go Back to School.” The main goal was to help our partners in Uganda, Lebanon, and Ecuador prepare vulnerable children to go back to school after almost two years of online learning. To address these and other challenges created by the pandemic, AVSI and partners have planned customized responses together with families and communities. As part of our global campaign, our donors helped us reach the following results.
Romana Koech, AVSI country representative in Kenya, illustrated AVSI experience in supporting women at the “Food for Life, Food for Justice, Food for all” series of webinars organized by the Holy See in view of the UN Food Systems Summit.
On Thursday, April 29, during the CIES21 conference (April 25-May 2), AVSI participated in a panel session to present the findings and lessons learned from evaluations of the school feeding programs on reading and nutritional outcomes of primary school children in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. The two programs are funded by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA)’s McGovern-Dole Food for Education and Child Nutrition program that supports education, child development, and food security in low-income, food-deficit countries.
COVID-19 has not slowed the need to improve educational outcomes in East Africa. If anything, the global emergency has thrown a spotlight on learning disparities in developing nations. The educational professionals and researchers at Luigi Giussani Institute for Higher Education in Uganda (LGIHE) – an AVSI-USA long-term partner – have been working for over a decade to promote teaching methods that unlock the full potential of each learner. “School leaders and teachers are the linchpin to the radical change needed to ignite self-awareness and critical thinking in learners,” said Mauro Giacomazzi, Institutional Development Advisor for LGIHE.
We are talking on Skype. After all, I am in Washington DC, and she is in Kharkiv, Ukraine. Wearing a beanie covering most of her hair, 28-years-old Olena Kuts looks away from the camera and laughs when I explain why I wanted to interview her: to learn more about her life.
“It’s a long story,” jokes Olena.
And not an easy one. Born with Phocomelia, a condition that involves arm and leg malformations, Olena was abandoned by her parents when she was just two days old. Soon after, she was sent to a local orphanage, where she lived for six years. Lena doesn’t like to look back at those first years of her life.
Alice Umutoni was 19 years old when violence spiked in her home country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo. She was home with her family when the neighbors began to scream. Within minutes, they heard more gunshots than they could count. Scared, they started to run in different directions. There was no time to pack and rescue belongings. One of the neighbors had to carry Alice to safety after finding her unconscious. Her family was nowhere to be found. Away from her loved one for the first time, she was surrounded by strangers who had already chosen their next destination: Kenya.
Alice’s favorite time of the day is sunset. She and her husband wait for their six children to come back from school. They sit together around a cup of tea and talk about their day. But Alice’s routine was not always so pleasant. Before joining AVSI’s Better Outcomes project, returning home at sunset was a nightmare. Everything she earned would be spent on alcohol by Robinson, her husband, leaving nothing to buy food for their children. When she tried to talk with Robinson, he would inevitably raise his hand at her.
“It was draining,” remembers Alice. “I couldn’t bear seeing my children starving.”
Studies show that school closure during COVID-19 has adverse effects on children and adolescents. Young people are anxious and worried that they will never go back to school. Bernadetta Anieno, 18 years old, is no exception.
“They kept postponing the reopening, and I was losing hope,” remembers Bernadetta, who has been studying at AVSI long-term partner Luigi Giussani High School in Kampala, Uganda, since 2019. “I was just home doing nothing, not even reading. One day, I asked myself what I would become if I kept being home just watching TV?”
Thanks to the Imarisha Jamil Project, AVSI Kenya has been helping refugees like Uwimpuhwe Marie Josee and Uwena Devota to enhance their social and economic resilience.
Bangio Ali, Education Officer with AVSI Kenya, shared her testimonial in the collective brainstorm “Educating Girls”, Organized by leading think-thank Friends of Europe.