COVID-19 AND LEARNING LOSS

Nearly 1 billion children have been affected by the schooling disruption caused by the COVID-19 crisis. The areas served by the SHE Project in rural Zimbabwe have not been spared either. The statistics show that children who were already at risk of being excluded from quality education have been affected the most due to unequal access to remote learning technology. Poor infrastructure and a lack of funding are contributing to his problem resulting in learning loss.

Although COVID-19 is disrupting education, there is growing evidence that education is the global South’s most powerful force for sustainable progress. The correlation between women’s education level and school enrolment for their children speaks to the need to prioritise the education of both boys and girls. In 2020, the Malala Fund reported that 20 million more girls are likely to drop out of secondary school due to the long-term effects of COVID-19. The pandemic has heightened girls’ exposure to abuse and the risk of dropping out, or rather being pushed out of the education system.

The common pathway leading to girls’ dropout in rural Sub-Saharan Africa begins with lack of basic needs which sometimes push girls into economic exploitation, sexually exploitive relationships with men who promised them money or goods, ultimately ending in unintended pregnancies, early marriages and in worst cases, HIV infections. There is need to address the challenges faced by vulnerable girls holistically so as to ensure that they safely stay in school and complete all levels of education. In the context of COVID-19, disappointment with school closures which are often abrupt and prolonged, fears and anxieties, a deep sense of insecurity in themselves about not returning to school and, lack of scholastic confidence should they return and are also challenges to consider.

While the universal primary and secondary education are now enshrined in SDGs many communities particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa are still far away from this goal. To achieve SDG 4, there is need to go beyond access to girls’ education and endeavour to ensure girls continue learning despite COVID-19, develop as learners until they successfully transition to employment or further education. To this end, young girls require support outside of education system which requires increased financing for the systems and structures that support girls’ education.

Finally, shifting social norms to better support young rural girls during this COVID-19 crisis can happen only if framed in a way that highlights the benefits for everyone. If boys and men are made to lose, any progress will be short-lived. We cannot afford to waste a single girl’s potential. We need all our people, Africa needs all its girls.

Letters from the girls

Below are four letters from SHE girls telling us about themselves and how they are getting on at school. It is so interesting to see their reflections. 

My name is Monalisa. 

I am 10 years old. I live in S****e village in Tsholotsho. I am an orphan living in one parent family. I live with my mother and other two siblings and I’m the youngest. 

I am doing grade 5. I love agriculture because we grow food we can eat like carrots & tomatoes. I like watering too.

SHE has been helpful to me, they have gave me uniforms & school fees. They have been so good to me  because my parents cant afford to pay my school fees.

Monalisa 

Thank you

My name is Nomalanga. 

I have 14 years. I am an orphan. I am doing my form studies at a local boarding school. I love learning English language a lot.

I would like to thank SHE for helping me proceed with my studies. They have been helpful with school uniforms, food & most importantly school fees.

Nomalanga

Thank you

My name is Zinhle. 

I am doing grade 7 at Si**** Primary.  I love school and learning .

At school I love different learning activities and playing netball. 

I really appreciate the help SHE has gave us and me in particular. Their programme is really helpfully especially to me an orphan they help me with school fees & school uniforms .

Zinhle

Thank you

 

 

 

My name is Diana.

I have 14 years. I’m currently doing Form 1 at a local boarding school.

I live in Sk**** village.

I love learning about SHE activities. SHE is quite helpful & kind to us for they have assisted me with different things including my school fees, food hampers and uniforms.

I say SHE is the best.

Diana

 

Our inaugural #SHEWALKS event

TOGETHER WE RAISED £2,627

We are so proud and thankful to all that took part and supported #SHEWALKS, our inaugural fundraising initiative

Thanks to them, and an International Women’s Day event hosted by Women Mean Biz, we raised £2,627 to support our work in Zimbabwe.

Whether it was a hike, a leisurely stroll, or a collection of walks over the week, we are delighted that so many people took part in our first ever fundraiser and joined us in walking Mary her 15km to school.

We can’t wait to see how this event evolves over the years to come and we hope that your #SHEWALKS T-shirt is the start of a collection! From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for getting involved.

The girls return to school

After months of lockdown in Zimbabwe, pupils returned to the classroom on Monday 22nd March. Our first cohort of 25 SHE girls attended, proudly wearing their new uniforms and equipped with their textbooks and stationery.

Our Field Programme Manager Talent Rusinga travelled to all four schools that our SHE girls attend to ensure they had everything they needed, that they were safe and comfortable with the return. 

They were more than comfortable – they were overjoyed to be back in class with their friends and teachers. And we couldn’t be prouder or them!

We are also hugely proud of talent and his team who managed to equip each of the girls in advance with their uniforms, bags, shoes and stationery as well as their families with their food parcels. This was all conducted during lockdown where, at times, military travel controls were in place. The team quickly made friends with local providers to each group in order that we met our commitments and the girls were looked after.

Our Needs Assessment

Anyone starting a charity will have an idea of the challenge and need that their proposed beneficiaries are facing. You only have to read Mayda’s story to understand why she believed there were barriers to education in rural Zimbabwe for young girls.

But it is the duty of every charity to put its prior knowledge and assumptions to one side and conduct a thorough needs assessment – one that will confirm what is truly going on and therefore direct the activity of the charity in the right way.

Throughout Autumn 2020, despite the pandemic and lockdowns across Zimbabwe the SHE team conducted an assessment of the situation in two areas of rural Zimbabwe. We did this by speaking directly with students in a number of schools, parents or guardians, teachers, local nurses and social workers as well as local authority. We also referred to the research of other charities and organisations. 

The assessment did confirm many of our assumptions but. it also highlighted some that we were entirely un aware of prior to this work. 

We have grouped the barriers as follows:

Security

  • Poverty at home / living in child-led homes
  • Child labour
  • No legal documentation
  • Orphaned
  • Long distances to school

Health

  • Limited access to healthcare
  • Sanitary products
  • Affected by HIV/AIDs
  • Hunger

Education

  • School fees
  • Textbooks
  • Uniforms / basic clothing
  • Quality of teaching

We believe that needs are ever changing so we aim to always consider our needs assessment a ‘draft’. It will be ever emerging and informing and we will keep it alive and front of mind by continuing our relationships with all of the contributors and stakeholders above.