By Kebba AF Touray
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Country Representative to The Gambia, Gordon Jonathan Lewis, has bemoaned the negative impact the novel coronavirus has caused to students’ education across the country.
Lewis’ lamentation came on Friday 20th November, 2020, during a dialogue with students of Kotu School, as part of events marking this year’s World Children’s Day, to ascertain the impact of COVID-19 on their education and how it affected their families as well as their communities in a bid to offer ways to rebuild things back to normal.
“The prolonged shutdown of schools has had a very negative impact on the academic abilities of the students to continue their learning process and some of the students informed us that the closure of the schools during the lockdown has impacted negatively on their examination results”, he said.
The UN Official said the purpose of their visit to the school was to listen to the ideas and suggestions of the students and that there are certain recommendations the students made which he believed they should relay to the authorities. And these include the negative impact of COVID-19 on the livelihood of the economic status of the families of the students, the prolonged shutdown of schools for approximately six or seven months, etc.
Lewis also disclosed that based on the estimate they are using from the Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE), it is estimated that 700,000 to 730,000 students have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We do know that the Ministry made every effort to guarantee the continuation of learning through digital learning, but we have to be very realistic that not every child leaves in a family that is connected to the internet or has means to be able to continue their education,” he said.
The UN Official underscored the significance of internet connectivity in schools and communities to ensure continuous learning process in similar future situations like COVID-19 to guaranteeing the education of students using digital platforms.
Mr. Lewis said he was encouraged to see the students implementing the health guidelines provided by the health experts and their readiness to contribute towards building the country back to normal in post-COVID19.
He further said since the outbreak of the pandemic, they reprogrammed their available resources to prioritize national response to the pandemic in a budget line of approximately US$8 Million they had for 2020. He said they decided to reprogram approximately US$5 million directly to COVID-19 response activities.
Lewis revealed that the amount (US$5 Million) was earmarked for the procurement of facemasks and hand sanitizers, improve the practice of hand washing and the procurement of thermometers, to enable the schools to conduct test on students in a bid to know their body temperature levels.
He thanked the Students of Kotu Senior Secondary School for their active participation and the positive recommendations they proffered during the dialogue.