Article – Can schools like Pakati in Zimbabwe benefit as UK schools return?

UK: As of Monday 8th March, schools across the United Kingdom have been returning to classroom learning. Some schools however are having a staged/staggered return, largely to accommodate the high level of Covid testing being introduced. Also, exam classes are being prioritised in this phased return, with many students still learning from home at least some of the time. Masks are to be worn, and social distancing to remain in force, particularly in areas where many are likely to be together, such as corridors.

Zimbabwe: As of Monday 15th March, all exam classes are returning to schools across the country. All remaining classes are to return a week later, on the 22nd March. I have not learned (yet) of any testing regimes being in place, although much preparation is being done to minimise the risk of transmission, similar to the previous return in October 2020. Emphasis was on handwashing, mask wearing and keeping distanced in the classrooms as much as possible.

UK: During the pandemic, amidst all the lockdowns, easing of restrictions and subsequent re-impositions, perhaps the area where most debate has arisen is in education. Issues have arisen about home schooling, parents becoming teachers, schools and their students needing to adapt to online lessons, the divide between the have’s and have-nots. There are in the UK many areas which are considered to be deprived poor, disadvantaged, and here many students have limited internet access and/or limited IT equiment. Trying to help those from falling further behind their better-off contemporaries has been important. With government support, a scheme to get improved internet access and also laptops to those who most need them has proved quite successful. Often done on a local level, a combination of Local Authorities, schools, charitable organisations and sometimes larger local employers, have managed to get equipment to those students. Usually it was done via the schools themselves, which made sense as they had knowledge of which students were most in need.

Zimbabwe: The pandemic has hit Zimbabwe hard, just like every other country in the world. Strains on the Health sector, the formal economy, and in partucular, the informal sector. Education has been badly affected too, with schools needing to adapt to Covid safety rules before allowing only limited numbers back in during October 2020. There is an additional dimension to the have’s/have nots divide in education here though – the rurul-urban split. Many of the rural areas struggle to have internet access as it is expensive to set up & maintain for these communities, as well as limited electricity often. Already behind because of the relatively poor facilities many in rural schools (like those at Pakati), students and their communuties are falling even further behind their urban/have’s contemporaries. We here at Friends of Pakati have been active with a partner organisation – VaTonatsa Foundation – to provide some revision booklets for exam classes. That has its limitations, though it was very welcome to staff & students at the 5 schools we helped (see https://friendsofpakati.com/2020/07/11/joint-venture-back-story-and-responses/ for more information)

UK & Zimbabwe: My question is this: what can people/organisations in the UK do to help those in even more need, such as places like Pakati in Zimbabwe? Can UK schools themselves help at all? Well, once those laptops which were only loaned out are returned, can some be given to organisations like http://www.friendsofpakati.com ? Are there any which were not distributed – if so, can they be offered as well? Are there any of those who donated laptops still in a position to give some more away? Are there any individuals willing to give away laptops they no longer need/use? If so, please get in touch with us!

friendsofpakati@gmail.com

http://Twitter.com/friendsofpakati

http://Facebook.com/Friends-of-pakati

Author:

My name is Chris Walker, and between January 1989 and September 1991 I worked, through VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas), at Pakati Secondary School in Murehwa South district in Zimbabwe. I was a Maths teacher for 2 years, the Acting Head for the last 8 months there. I have also taught in Botswana & the UK, had 4 years working for VSO, and spent the last 14 years as a Civil Servant in Bradford. I married a Zimbabwean woman & we have 2 sons.

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