In Africa, the resumption of classes is proving as late as it is complicated

Photo credit: Aide et Action

In Africa, most countries have postponed the start of the school year - in some cases until January 2021 - to try to adapt to the constraints of the Coronavirus. But despite this extra time, the actual resumption of classes is proving very difficult and is already seriously behind schedule. An overview of our different countries of intervention.

MADAGASCAR

Malagasy schools had to remain closed for the duration of the containment, from March to July 2020. Only students in exam classes resumed classes at the end of April and again in August, so that the official end-of-year exams could be held. For this new school year, if While some private school children returned to school at the beginning of September, public primary schools did not resume until Monday 26 October, after seven months of closure! To compensate for this delay, the 2020-2021 school year will end on 30 July 2021, which extends the school year by an extra month. In this way, the government hopes that teachers will have enough time to catch up with the 2019-2020 school year curriculum that could not be completed during the health crisis.
Barrier measures such as masks, hand washing and distancing are mandatory in schools. And to avoid overcrowding of the often overcrowded classrooms, it is planned that the presence of pupils will be alternated. Finally, an exceptional measure has been adopted for this year: enrolment in public schools is free of charge and any contribution by parents is abolished until further notice in order to lighten the burden on parents in precarious situations. In addition, primary school pupils are provided with school kits and aprons.


AFRIQUE DE L'OUEST

The new school year started in Côte d'Ivoire on 14 September, with reinforced sanitary measures. The Ministry of Education made it compulsory to wear a mask and wash hands in all schools. In addition, special measures have been taken to protect students and teachers on the one hand and to ensure that students are brought up to standard on the other. Thus, a COVID-19 watch committee has been set up in all schools to ensure that barrier measures are respected and to raise awareness of the fight against the spread of the virus, and health clubs will help reinforce hygiene and sanitation. At the same time, a systematic refresher course for pupils is planned for the first eight weeks of the school year; the value and sustainability of distance learning must be ensured; educational programmes have been reorganised and adapted to the new context; and the pedagogical framework has been strengthened with the recruitment of 1,211 pedagogical advisers for pre-school and primary schools and 400 pedagogical advisers for secondary schools.

Despite these arrangements, difficulties have arisen such as the lack of masks or hand-washing facilities in some schools, the excessive delay of some pupils who were completely cut off from school during the lockdown, or the fact that some parents decided that their children would not return to school until after the elections scheduled for 31 October 2020 because of the political crisis. 

In Benin, classes resumed on 28 September, again with provisions to avoid making the school environment a place where the virus can spread. The modalities for organising the start of the new school year are as follows: no more than 50 pupils per class; obligation to wear masks; free distribution of masks in public schools, colleges and universities; systematic use of hydro-alcoholic gels; obligation to keep at least one metre away from the classrooms; obligation to disinfect all classrooms; recruitment and assignment of teachers to fill the shortage of teachers; and finally, reorganisation of the recess period. 

However, the decision to limit the number of pupils per class to 50 poses a serious infrastructure problem. A strict application of this decision is difficult to envisage without a review of the capacity of schools and educational establishments and an increase in the number of teachers. 

On the other hand, in Togo, the start of the school year is still not effective. It is scheduled for 2 November only! 

SAHEL

The start of the school year in the Sahel is two-thirds complete, notably in Burkina Faso and Niger, where it took place on 20 September and 15 October 2020 respectively. But in Mali, it will only be effective nationally from 4 January 2021! This government decision follows the school, health and socio-political crises that the country is currently experiencing.

In Burkina Faso, the start of the school year is also taking place in a context of strong security challenges. Indeed, as of September 20, 2020, 2,206 primary schools and 192 post primary and secondary schools were closed in 7 regions. In the East, especially in the province of Gnagna where Aide et Action is working, 75 primary schools are currently closed.
For a peaceful and secure start to the 2020-2021 school year, the ministry in charge of education and its partners have drawn up a plan with the following guidelines: the organisation of a month and a half of classes to complete the programmes of the intermediate classes of the 2019-2020 school year; the dissemination of a course on COVID-19 in all classes as the first course of the new school year; the organisation of awareness-raising sessions for the educational community; the acquisition and provision of masks and soap to schools, as well as the development and dissemination of a protocol for the management of COVID-19 in educational structures

In terms of particular difficulties for this new school year. classes In Niger, the coincidence of the start of the school year with the harvest period is added to the problem. This creates a situation where pupils and other learners are retained by parents who need them for this work. The effective start of classes in some schools is therefore very relative, especially in rural areas.

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