How COVID-19 Has Affected Education In Sub-Saharan Africa
How has COVID-19 affected education in sub-Saharan Africa? What is the Ashinaga Africa Initiative doing to recognize this?
Since the first cases of COVID-19 in Africa in February 2020, the disease has spread throughout the continent, and different governments have put in place various measures to fight the pandemic. Most governments’ responses included a widespread closure of schools at an early stage to reduce the spread of the virus. The impact on education was felt across all countries globally but felt acutely on the African continent.
Many students on the continent received no education during the various lockdowns. Since schools were closed, many students did not have the opportunity to receive instruction, feedback, or interact with their teachers. Learning, where possible, moved to online platforms or other media channels. As of July 2021, UNICEF estimated that in Eastern and Southern Africa alone, 69 million children are out of school due to COVID-19 and other pre-pandemic drivers.
When considering limited access to technologies such as radio, television, computers, and the internet, the situation is even worse. These factors leave many students unable to engage in remote learning. While many governments have renewed focus to increase digital learning and literacy for both the teachers and the students, widespread challenges remain.
In addition to disrupted learning, there has been a worsening of mental health as a result of school closures. Many students faced feelings of anxiety, stress, isolation, and depression as they were unable to resume their everyday lives and socialize freely.
Although the pandemic has presented unprecedented challenges for many worldwide, there have also been remarkable stories from some Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) Scholars who have done phenomenal work during the pandemic. Apollo is such an example: he is an AAI Scholar from Uganda who could not travel to Japan to start his studies in person due to travel restrictions. It did not discourage him from being proactive, and he redirected his energy and time in Uganda to gain leadership experience. He took on an internship with the Wakiso District Local Government and later participated in an online program called BuildforSDG2020. With things moving online, he was also able to seize the opportunities presented in such a transition and attended an entrepreneurship camp called the Swiss Re Start-Up Academy hosted by Aiducation International and Junior Achievement Uganda. Apollo has also been very involved with his local Nansana Cleaning Club. You can read more about Apollo’s activities here:
None of us may know how long it will take to overcome the challenges of COVID-19, but steps are being taken in terms of mitigation and adaptation. Many African countries have prioritized teachers in the vaccination campaigns. In the meantime, standard operating procedures such as mask-wearing, temperature screenings, hand washing, and sanitizing stations are being introduced. The AAI has also adapted to reflect the new challenges more effectively. The Anglophone and Lusophone Preparation Year, as hosted by the Ashinaga Uganda office, has moved online, as have the Tsudois (annual gatherings of Scholars in Japan, the UK, USA, France, and Brazil). Scholars have been completing their internships online and have also been able to graduate from the program remotely. In AAI student recruitment, Ashinaga staff have adapted from traveling internationally to organize in-person assessment days and have shifted to a hybrid model, including a new style of online interviews.
The AAI Selection Team is also acutely aware of the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts on student applicants. As a result, the application system has been amended to take these new factors into consideration. For example, we have included questions about how COVID-19 impacted the applicants in the application forms. Beyond this, the assessment process this year will consider challenges related to COVID-19 more broadly, keeping a careful eye on grade achievements in schools and exams.
Interested in becoming a future leader with Ashinaga? Applications are currently open! Register your application here:https://ashinaga.smapply.net