Children across Tanzania headed back to school on Monday 29th June after three months of closure due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The decision makes Tanzania the first country in East Africa to allow students to return to school. Tanzania had earlier reopened universities and other higher learning institutions on 1st June. Kindergartens, primary and secondary schools, were allowed to resume learning following an order by President John Magufuli, who expressed satisfaction with the country’s handling of the pandemic.
TFFT scholars joined hundred of thousands of learners countrywide as they trooped back to their classrooms wearing face masks as part of health guidelines to avoid another outbreak. We made sure none of our scholars were turned back by availing them with at least 3 face masks each or face shields, as required by the respective school they are studying at. The face masks/shields are the newly added accessory to their basic supplies upon resumption of schools. Complaints of not being able to breathe properly through the masks have been addressed by ensuring that scholars had the face masks provided soon after schools closed on March 17, therefore they had become accustomed to this new normal.
With no clear end to the pandemic in sight, schools had to be reopened at some stage with due consideration being paid not only to the health risk, but to the potential risks to children for not returning to school, such as reversing numeracy and literacy skills gained, an increase in school drop outs, and proliferation of harmful practices like early child marriage and child labour as livelihoods are under threat. The decision to reopen schools means learning to live with the virus. As a team, working in the best interests of our scholars, we conducted back to school orientation sessions by sharing basic information and tips on how to take more responsibility over one’s health during this crisis period, emphasizing that now, more than ever, one’s health is certainly their wealth. We shared the importance of proper wearing and regular washing of masks, and observing strict hand washing, and social distancing.
We have also been following up with the schools who are operating in strict adherence to protocols and guidelines set by the Ministry of Health in ensuring that both students and teachers are protected against COVID-19. Wearing masks is compulsory and the schools have ensured that there is enough clean water tanks for hand washing in the school compound, and that both teachers and students are respecting the recommended +1 metre social distancing in class.
Scholars have settled in well with fewer anxieties and are excited to be back in school as they reconnect with their friends and teachers. Learning is resuming its “natural” or usual setting with more supervised support. Students are able to pose questions and get immediate assistance unlike when they were at home. They can focus and concentrate on learning, as at home there were hindrances associated with household chores and an absence of adequate quite spaces for study. Scholars are also guaranteed at least 3 nutritious meals a day, which was becoming a challenge at their homes due to the vulnerability of livelihoods. TFFT donated food relief supplies so they could last longer in this uncertain time period.
On the whole, the scholars I have talked with are excited about being back in school. Some exam candidates writing national examinations this year are eager to get back on track and get the pace and rhythm of studying going so they get past this defining stage.
To our TFFT Family, supporters, donors and friends, thank you for your unwavering support and always igniting the hope that this crisis too shall pass and we will emerge better and not bitter!