The Zambia National Education Coalition (ZANEC) is concerned with the guidance on the continued closure of early childhood education centers, and primary and secondary schools until 16th August 2021. Worse still, although the directive regarding the continued closure of colleges and universities was premised on continued learning through remote platforms, there was no mention of how early learning centers, primary schools and secondary schools will benefit from continuity of learning at home.
It is important to note that the burden and future cost of keeping our learners out of school without any form of continuity of learning at home is huge. Current research evidence shows that learners whose education has been disrupted by the COVID 19 will never get those valuable months back and will remain disadvantaged compared to both previous and later generations. This also means that the current learning loss will lead to more future deaths than the COVID 19 pandemic through a generation of doctors and health workers who had a bad foundation. The only difference being that these deaths will happen in future. This is not to mention the huge economic loss and loss in future incomes of our current learners who will drop out of school as a result of loss of interest in school due to the long closure.
What we are saying is that the continued closure of schools should have been accompanied by a robust investment in remote learning modes aimed at providing remote learning at home involving multi-platform programs that combine online lessons, television, radio and paper based materials. More important also, such measures require explicit strategies for reaching disadvantaged households including children with disabilities and learners in rural areas. To this effect, we expected government to take a decisive action on recapitalizing the Education Broadcasting Services (EBS) and granting it a licence to air radio education programmes countrywide as a short term measure and start planning to air television education programmes countrywide as a long term measure.
It is also important to note that the COVID 19 pandemic will not go away soon as many variants will continue to emerge and ravage our Country. Therefore, we need to continue adapting our strategies to ensure continuity of learning amidst the COVID 19 pandemic. Specifically, the likely continued resurgence of COVID 19 cases requires that government plans for blended education provision where some schools in low risk localities such as rural areas can remain open, while those in high risk localities like urban areas can close and revert to remote learning as they go in temporary lock-downs because of the spiking COVID-19 cases. This will help ensure continuity of learning for all learners regardless of the COVID-19 situation.
In conclusion, the only justification for keeping our schools closed now is that we have not funded our schools enough to make them resilient to the current wave of the COVID 19 pandemic. We believe that given adequate financial investment in the health and safety of our learners and teachers in schools, continuity of learning can be assured even amidst the current pandemic. We therefore call upon government through the Ministry of Finance to adequately resource our schools so that they can embrace blended learning modes as the cost of keeping our schools closed far outweigh the health risk of having our teachers and learners in school amidst the COVID 19 pandemic.