US assists African learners affected by Covid



MASERU – Lesotho, along with other African countries is set to receive a share of financial assistance amounting up to US$37 million (more than M0.5 billion) from the US government to address the education crisis caused by Covid-19 pandemic.

The assistance is envisaged to benefit around 31 million learners in 190 countries that dropped out of schools due to the pandemic.

This was announced this week by Administrator, Samantha Power, who also noted that the US, through USAID and the US Department of State, will contribute an additional US$37 million to Education Cannot Wait (ECW) – a global fund for education in emergencies.

The announcement was made during a ECW’s High Level Steering Group meeting on Tuesday this week. “The $37 million contribution, the US Government’s largest contribution to date, highlights the United States’ commitment to lead in education in crisis and conflict.

“The United States continues to assist partner countries in building education systems back as countries respond and recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

“At the height of school closures, Covid-19 disrupted the education of as many as 1.6 billion learners in 190 countries.

“Thankfully, that number has declined dramatically, yet more than 31 million children remain out of school, and many may never return to a classroom,” Samantha said.

She continued that the United States’ investment will support the global education fund in ensuring that the most marginalised children and youth in countries experiencing emergencies and protracted crises have access to life-saving and life-sustaining education services, adding that the funding will also support its critical work in improving humanitarian and development coherence in education and enabling a more collaborative and rapid response to the educational needs of children and youth affected by crises.

Powers said the pledge complements USAID’s bilateral programmes in basic and higher education, adding to their long history of creating better access to quality education, particularly for children in crisis and conflict contexts –– one of the most powerful forces for driving economic development, prosperity, and security.

ECW is a new global fund meant to transform the delivery of education in emergencies – one that joins up governments, humanitarian actors and development efforts to deliver a more collaborative and rapid response to the educational needs of children and youth affected by crises.

The fund aims to reach all crisis-affected children and youth with safe, free and quality education by 2030. The financial assistance will do a lot in helping Lesotho address some of the challenges its education system encountered as a result of Covid-19.

In November last year, the Ministry of Social Development announced that more than 4 000 Form C and Form E students failed to show up at school when classes resumed in November 2020 after they were closed due to the first lockdown meant to control the spread of Covid-19 since the beginning of the same year.

Failure to afford examination and school fees were presented as the main drivers behind, given the economic disruption caused by the coronavirus lockdown.

The ministry’s officer, Liteboho Mosala-Letsie, told Public Eye that her ministry found out that 2 727 (15.15 percent) and 1 661 students (11.86 percent) who were supposed to sit for JC and LGSCE examinations respectively had dropped out.

“That is a total of 4 388 students. Some owed examination fees, others owed school fees, while others owed both examination and school fees. The ministry is going to pay for them and the Minister has since appealed to them to go back to school,” Mosala-Letsie said.

The Minister of Social Development, ’Matebatso Doti, last year even announced in parliament that her ministry will throw a lifeline to all the Form C and E students who dropped out and pay their fees.

Doti said this was a critical support for the students to get their lives back on track and called on the parents to send their children back to school.

Since the dawn of the pandemic in the country the government of Lesotho and partners, through the education in emergencies working group and the Local Education Group, have developed a plan to respond to this humanitarian crisis in a timely and comprehensive manner.

The government put in place interventions to support educational activities for children of primary and secondary school going age in the immediate, medium, and longer term.

Lesotho declared a national emergency on March 18, 2020, and all schools (including ECCD centers) were closed. This affected approximately 511 3181 learners. Most of the learners are in rural areas and on average of 4.3 percent of the learners affected by the closure have a disability.

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