The outbreak of COVID-19 has created a new order which has seen South Africa taking radical actions in pursuit of containing the spread of the pandemic. South Africa action of calling for the lockdown has further precipitation the disruption of livelihoods within communities, especially the Black disadvantaged communities. With this, Africa Unite School program with its associates have taken a pivotal role in devising practical strategies to respond to the current situation as the current environment entails shifting from longer-term responses to emergency relief.
Africa Unite School Club program has played a crucial role in the following ways ;
With the closure of schools since February 2020, the education of learners has been greatly affected. Despite government initiatives to provide other alternatives of shifting to distance learning to reinforce learning and teaching strategies, these have been not been inclusive. Succinctly, government strategies have shortfalls especially looking at scholars who do not have access to the online resources used. As such, AUSC noted this gap and has distributed academic resources for the school club members through providing assistance for grade 8 to grade 12 learners with all subjects. In addition, AUSC has placed priority in subjects which scholars are struggling with such as Mathematics, Physics, Accounting and Biology. These lessons have been compressed and shared virtually through affordable social media platforms to accommodate all learners and their educational needs. The development of lessons and activities was achieved by tapping into the network of teachers and peer educators who specialize in different subjects to share activities.
The responses to the pandemic has also forced AUSC to put all planned activities that involve contact with learners on hold such as the Annual Leadership Camp. The camp involves capacitating the cabinet members and parliamentarians on their roles and responsibilities in their various portfolios. Although there has been shift of the activities our learners have continued to show show immense leadership and have initiated COVID-19 awareness campaigns using remote mechanisms even with the minimal resources they have . Thus, the AUSC program has initiated a Teenage Superhero appreciation week which recognises the learners that have displayed leadership as well as encourage meaningful youth activism and leadership. Moreover, the initiatives of the young leaders will be published on AUSC Facebook and WhatsApp page.
Likewise, we have inducted a youth reporters program, which is aimed at capacitating our learners; more so the Presidents and Ministers of Information and Public Relations, to be able to report on the issues their school and communities face. Nonetheless, currently the program is centred on educating the learners on how to collect information from their families and outside sources on their current states during this pandemic. Nevertheless, the hope is for this program to grow into a podcast that our learners will be pioneering.
Since the focus of the AUSC entails working with communities, a community mapping was imperative to gather a baseline knowledge of the areas our learners come from, especially during this pandemic. Our learners shared information on the various affects the virus and current lockdown has had on them, their parents and fellow community members. The information has been packaged into a booklet which details their diverse experiences.
The current environment has raised so many uncertainties leaving teenagers with anxiety and fear of the unknown, such poses a negative impact on the teenager’s ability to learn as it puts their mental health at risk. Moreover,it has the potential to lead to social and behavioral problems and negative self-concept . With this in mind the AUSC program has curated the Social and Emotional Learning Forum (SELF) which has developed activities to assist learners with their emotional and mental health during the pandemic. SELF hosted 3 Zoom sessions which have covered topics such as (1) prioritizing,(2) coping mechanism and (3) setting SMART goals. The SELF activities have managed to reach 42 learners and has been able to assist 20 learners per session with data to participate in the sessions. Through creative expressions learners have been able to utilize other skills,such as art and poetry to support COVID-19 responses.
Regardless of the current state, the AUSC Program will continue to work with our young leaders as we groom them into agents of change in this new normality. Likewise, we invite any partnerships that will assist the youth with their academics and other areas.
We would like to applaud the educators and parents that have been committed to assisting their learners and children in such conditions, your efforts never go unnoticed.