Op-Ed: Ethiopia’s School Reopening Narrows the Widened Inequalities During COVID-19 School Closure

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By: Abdiaziz Ali Hussein

Ethiopia in bid to protect and reduce the spread of Covid-19 closed schools on 16 March 2020 and sent 26 million-plus pre-primary, primary, secondary, and tertiary-level learners at home. It was last week when this 100 million-plus complex nations and nationalities reopened the first phase of a three-phase reopening plan and the second phase as of yesterday according to the Ministry of Education announcement in September 2020.

When the schools were closed, Ethiopia Federal Ministry of Education (MoE) announced that primary school students follow lessons from a radio transmission and Secondary Schools follow television lessons that are transmitted by MoE television. But this didn’t come with an arrangement that all students continue their education rather it left the already disadvantaged poor children far behind. According to a phone survey with school principals and teachers across seven (7) diverse regional states and 1 city administration (Amhara, Benishangul-Gumuz, Oromia, SNNP, Somali and Tigray and Addis Ababa), in both rural and urban locations conducted by Research on Improving Systems of Education (RISE), found striking findings that 40% school principals had no access to the radio, television or internet in Somali Region at all, and other findings related to this in the other regional states of the country that they interviewed.

One can guess where school principles that were supposed to play the top role of continuing education by coordinating teachers to support students during school closure due to COVID-19 remain off the line at all. So not to mention what children in these areas learnt during school closure but the School reopening is a God sent for these children to attend face-to-face classes.

The school reopening is coming after the Government of Ethiopia launched a month-long nationwide campaign on August 2020 in a theme of “ምክንያት አልሆንም።” as televised on Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation. The objective of the month-long nationwide campaign is to increase the test of the Covid-19 so that we know the trends of the pandemic. When Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali (PhD) talked to the public said after the end of this month-long campaign will let us know reopening the different fronts and school was one of those fronts.

According to in a news on Ethiopian Herald, Minister of the Ethiopian Ministry of Health Dr. Lia Tadesse presenting the performance report on national COVID-19 responses to the House of People’s Representatives on mid-early September said that schools could be opened by meeting the necessary requirements like wearing face masks, providing adequate water and soap, strengthening the participation of the parents, teachers and other stakeholders. Reducing the number of students in classes to apply social distancing, opening windows and doors of classes as well as implementing technologies and other mechanisms are also requirements of reopening schools, Dr Lia remarked.

The government made the necessary arrangement to reopen schools to take the precaution of the threat of the Coronavirus pandemic and dispatched 50 million facemasks to schools and other necessary materials. But still getting water for every school is too tall and create too many headaches for a developing country like Ethiopia unless the support of the international community, INGOs and the United Nations increase their aid. Finally, as a developing country that has benefited the support of the deep-pocket donors from private to public, Ethiopia will need much support like any other time before.


Abdiaziz Is a writer, educationist, an award-winning campaigner and education advocate. Currently, he is Regional Specialist of a UK funded Education project for Ethiopia. Formerly he worked with a different office like United Nations, INGOs and Government of Ethiopia in different capacities like; teacher, Head, Manager, Researcher, Consultant etc.  Mr. Ali lives Jigjiga, Ethiopia and can be reached through abdiaziz172@gmail.com.

 

 

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