In 2020 countries around the world grappled with whether to open schools, and how to open them safely in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. After Lesotho’s lockdown was over, the question of school re-opening was not as simple as setting a date and picking up from where things left off. The path to reopening schools would take planning, preparation, and commitment.
Many learners and teachers were faced with different challenges as a result of lockdown-related school closures.
Thato Tlalinyane, a learner from Mampota High School explained: “Many young girls got pregnant and were not able to go back to school. Many parents lost their jobs, and some students could not go back to school because now their parents were not able to pay their school fees when schools reopened.”
Thato added that she had to rely on self-discipline when facing the situation she found herself in as a result of school disruptions. “I learned that as students, we have to keep doing our schoolwork, even when the situation does not allow us to go to school.”
Mosiua Maboee (22) a learner at Matholeng High School, agreed. “I learned that I still have to continue doing my schoolwork – even if just for two hours a day.”
In Lesotho, across all 10 FutureLife-Now! schools, educators and learners participated in different FutureLife-Now! programmes. One such programme was the COVID-19 emergency response that included capacity building training sessions.
FutureLife-Now! empowered young people and educators to become COVID-19 leaders in order to protect themselves and others. This was one of the strategies used to help flatten the spread of the pandemic.
In follow-up interviews with leaners and teachers, it was evident that the training had had a profound and positive impact. Sefora Daemane, (19), a learner at Matholeng High School, participated in the FutureLife-Now! COVID-19 training sessions and said that they were of enormous benefit. “We were taught about COVID-19, learned how we could take care of ourselves and others, how to use our masks correctly, and how to wash our hands properly.”
Lebohang Sefuthi, an educator from Matsepe High School said, “After participating in FutureLife- Now! COVID-19 educator training, I believe I will help a lot by educating others around me and in the community, and stop the spread of false information going around about the pandemic and the vaccine.”
There is hope within the gloom, according to some teachers who say that perhaps this is a moment to try to reimagine education in Lesotho, where every child learns the skills, he/she needs to succeed in life and reach his or her full potential.
“We have to be flexible as much as possible, and challenge our conventional learning and teaching methods,” said Sefuthi. “In as much as we want to interact physically with our leaners, we have to appreciate the importance of technology to ensure teaching and learning still continues amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and other pandemics that might come in the future. Can we seize the opportunity that COVID-19 presents in terms of better learning? I hope so.”