For many teachers, the ban on schooling to roll back the coronavirus pandemic has posed a huge setback on their work and livelihood.
But Zelesi Ngwizi, from Mkanda Primary School in Mchinji, has been going door to door to teach some 94 learners how to take care of themselves to prevent coronavirus infections.
“For two months, I have been visiting children in their homes to teach them how to stay safe while schools remain closed,” she explains.
Ngwizi says the children appear happy as some of them hoped to go back to school soon, but the uncertain wait continues.
“I just wanted to gauge if they know how they can protect themselves and their loved ones from the virus. As a teacher, I was convinced with their responses and got encouraged to keep teaching them,” she says.
Ngwizi is one of the teachers who work with support from The Story Workshop Education Trust which offers the youth vital information on coronavirus prevention.
The community preparedness, response and management project is funded by the German agency for international development, GIZ.
According to The Story Workshop projects manager Ambele Gogwe, the trust uses methods that excite children to understand the coronavirus-related message.
The project targets 21 600 learners and 16575 of them have been reached by their teachers in Mchinji, Mulanje, Thyolo, Mangochi, Mzimba and Ntcheu districts.
She says: “It has been a great journey and we are pleased that most of them proved to have prior knowledge before the teachers intervened,” she explains.
Now, says the change agent, the children no longer going to school sound aware of what is happening in the country’s response to the global pandemic, which has killed over 500 000 from more than 12 million cases worldwide.
“We are sure that they will protect themselves from the virus,” she says. “Since the lessons were delivered by their teachers with the help from their parents, we hope that most children will take care not to contract or spread coronavirus.”
Mchinji district education manager Nellie Kamtedza says it is pleasing that teachers are aiding learners to stay safe even outside the classroom.
“I commend our teachers for the job well done. This is what we need to beat the pandemic. Regardless of what they are learning, the children will always remember the lessons from their teacher. This is why teachers are important players in the education system,” she says.
The government closed schools on March 23, leaving the learners stuck at home where they learn from the radio or worldwide web with their parents’ assistance.
The educationist says: “Although some children are schooling at home, it is not easy for those who live in rural areas.
“They have low access to necessary devices and telecommunication signal. They also have to do household chores and school work at the same time. So having a visit from their teachers is a motivation on its own for them.”
Almost six million school-going children in the country have been home due to the suspension of schooling to roll back coronavirus transmission.
Some organisations such as Save the Children are working closely with the Ministry of Education to ensure children keep schooling at home using interactive radio programmes.
Educationist Steve Sharra calls for new interactive techniques to help children not to forget things they learnt in school and think about their future.
“We are in a dangerous situation where most children cannot access other ways of learning apart from being physically present in classrooms. As such, most of them are being left behind,” says Sharra.
He reckons the teachers going door-to-door have shown the passion to ensure their learners are not left behind.