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COVID -19 Response: Televised learning gives hope to students of St. Ignatius College in Zambia

According to UNESCO’s global monitoring of school closures caused by COVID-19, most governments around the world have temporarily closed educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. These nationwide closures are impacting over 60% of the world’s student population. Several other countries have implemented localized closures impacting millions of additional learners.

Many countries have responded to these closures by adopting remote learning through various platforms and following various approaches to learning, like online learning programs through Zoom, Skype, etc. Online learning has however also exposed the deep digital divides between and within countries, this not excluding the developed or high-income countries. According to World Bank, this gap even widens and becomes far worse for lower resource environments in middle- and- low-income countries with Internet penetration rates typically less than 50% and a large share of students without devices to enable online learning at home due to the pre-existing pandemic of poverty. Countries are therefore turning to television to significantly increase access to remote learning. Since the 1950s low- and middle-income countries have been using education television including interactive television lessons more recently.

These statistics have shaped the current needs of learning emanating from the crisis of a global health emergency caused by coronavirus.

In our case in Zambia, following the outbreak of the pandemic in Wuhan, China in 2019, which has since traversed the globe, the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) in collaboration with the Ministry of Health (MoH) in mid-march responded to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic by closing all schools in an attempt to contain the virus. The closure meant that Students were going on a premature school break without covering the work which was planned for the first term of 2020. It is from the challenges that COVID-19 presented that St Ignatius College worked with Loyola TV to organise means by which educators and students could pedagogically cover the remaining academic work for the term and also to help students meant to undertake examinations to prepare for their transitional assessments. This collaboration with Loyola Television in Lusaka gave way to the launch of a televised program to remotely teach functional subjects at grade (9) and (12). STEM subjects, English, and Religious Education for both senior and junior secondary schools were identified as the main focal points of these televised classes.

St Ignatius College is a private Catholic Secondary School situated in the City of Lusaka, Zambia. It offers Jesuit Education for students in grade eight 8 to 12. The College is among the many High Schools in Zambia that partner with the Ministry of General Education (MoGE) and is examined by the Examinations Council of Zambia at grade (9) and (12).

In an interview with Loyola TV, the Principal of St. Ignatius College, Mr. Kwalombota Mwangala, thanked the Society of Jesus, Zambia-Malawi Province for offering this learning platform as the education apostolate of the Province; born out of a crisis the school was able to continue to impart knowledge to their students. He stated that even though it was not possible to cater to all the classes, the platform had enabled parents of students in these two grades to put their minds at ease knowing their children could prepare for their examinations accordingly. He also noted that prior to the launch of televised classes the parents had expressed concerns towards their children’s education worrying that they would be missing out of learning, urging the school to create a solution to cater to their children’s needs. Pointing also to the fact that as much as homeschooling was taking shape in many households, the school had also discovered that not all students were able to benefit from it therefore the idea of televised classes came in time to alleviate these concerns.

In a survey conducted across the globe prior to the launching of televised lessons, the findings indicated that each household owned a television set. “Therefore, these televised classes through Loyola TV, ensured students are given an opportunity to get back to the administration of St. Ignatius College, St. Canisius College, or Loyola TV through the help of their parents. This being the only way they could collaborate and fill the gaps due to COVID-19 that brought so much uncertainty, impairing, and incapacitating our way of thinking as educators”, the Principal concluded.

Below is the interview which was done by Loyola TV