The COVID 19 pandemic has challenged our lives in ways that we could not have imagined. Never has there been a period where schools were closed for three consecutive months here in Tanzania. It is quite unfortunate that the students missed out on their classes, teachers were not able to execute their lesson plans as per usual, and activities by those directly involved in and/or supporting the educational sector could not do so.
While Tanzania is working to close the technology gap and most cities and towns are well equipped with technical know-how and access, capabilities are still limited . When the schools closed, it was not a given that learning would transition smoothly to online platforms because a large percent of Tanzania students do not have the tools to access online services, let alone the knowledge to maneuver the databases. As for TFFT scholars, their teachers made sure to provide hard copy holiday assignments every three weeks so that they keep learning and could revise subjects from their syllabuses.
It has been 5 weeks now since school resumed. With the help of our committed donors, we were able to buy basic items inclusive of toiletries and school supplies to ensure that all scholars returned back to school with necessary resources. It is a requirement by the government that schools should have stations for washing hands and that each student should have face masks upon return. Our scholars were provided with 3 reusable face masks each for use at school.
Upon resumption of school, the government had required teachers to extend their schedules two hours later than their usual timetable, this was an anticipated change to students. The first two weeks were challenging for the scholars to adapted to their school schedule, waking up early and a full day of having classes. According to the teachers on the ground in our partner schools, when the students resumed school, they had forgotten a lot of academic concepts, nonetheless after the opening exams, teachers where able to gauge where students stand and strategize a way forward. Students have slowly adjusted to their new timetable and our scholars were very happy to reunite with friends.
At the moment, teachers are making up for lost time. Most of them have three to four topics to cover before they start general revision. This year’s national exams for the candidate classes have been postponed to give students time to recover and prepare properly for the exams. This also means that the graduation days have been postponed and schools are not likely to hold the usual ceremonies that involve extensive gatherings.
TFFT has also minimized frequent visits to school and opted to check on our scholars by opening communication lines with the school heads, matrons and nurses at our partner schools. They have been very responsive and they report all incidents that require our attention. Our physical follow up visits will be conducted once a month in an effort to support our scholars both academically and psychologically. At the moment all our scholars are in good health both mentally and physically.
We are eternally grateful to all of our sponsors whose support to TFFT has been unwavering even during these trying times. The pandemic has taught us how to adapt our abilities to uncertainties. Many aspects of our lives have changed, but one thing remains constant: education prepares minds to be adaptable and think outside of the box in a changing world.