10/19/20 -The historians will mention 2020 as the year of misery, distress, exclusion, damage and lockdowns due to the outbreak of Covid-19. The education sector took a huge blow as schools from more than 180 countries closed, leaving an estimated 1.5 billion children out of school. Pakistan faces the unprecedented challenge to cope with re-adjusting its academic year due to widespread closure of schools for almost six months, with educational activities almost halted and the government introducing distance learning forums such as ‘Tele Taleem,’ which insufficiently serve the majority of children from rural areas. In total, approximately 8.63 million primary school children have been adversely impacted by the country-wide closures.
Under the circumstances, Bushra Sultan, a primary school teacher from Rahim Yar Khan had a tough choice to make as she could not bear to witness years of hard work going down the drain. “There was just too much uncertainty at the start of the lockdown and it seemed like no one will survive this menace hearing the news about the number of casualties taking place in the west,” she said. For a couple of months, she observed that no new cases were reported in her nearby villages and the government had even lifted the lockdown, but the schools remained closed and the education sector continued to suffer. She knew that her students would soon be forgetting the previous lessons they learned as no learning activity was taking place.
To her surprise, when she decided to follow-up with her students, she came to learn that many of them had started labor work in the fields and some had started helping their parents back home. It was this moment that intrigued her to talk with their parents andshe started inviting students to her home for free tutorials. She added it was not easy convincing the parents to send their children, but she used community elders to talk with the parents so they may start sending children for a couple of hours to her home on daily basis. Bushra even transformed one of the rooms in her home into a classroom. She started with teaching three subjects – English, Mathematics and Science – to just a few of her students. She further opined that the Coronavirus is a reality and didn’t leave any stone unturned as she required all children to strictly follow precautionary measures like washing hands with soap before the tutorial, wearing a mask and sitting at a distance of at least 3 ft. As Bushra took the initiative and started sharing pictures in the Whatsapp group made by the National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) management, other teachers also took a notice and were inspired to start calling their students at home to ensure proper coronavirus related SOPs were in place. Of course, the impact didn’t stay confined to one teacher or one district only. The EEQAP team, upon the advice from Dr. Jean-Francois Trani, started convincing teachers and parents from all intervention districts to continue their children’s education through tutorials during the lockdown. Now here we are, adjusting to the new normal while ensuring that inclusion of all children in learning stays effective.
Submitted by Munib Sohail, Aatif Baloch, Bakhtawer Pasha
EEQAP Project Coordinators