I AM HAPPY TO BE BACK IN SCHOOL
Mutinta is among the 4.5 million children across the country who were sent home on 20th March when schools closed as one of the early prevention measures government undertook to manage the pandemic. Fortunately for Mutinta and over 1.1 million children, the government reopened examination classes on the 1st of June 2020. She is happy to be back in school as she narrates: “I am happy that we have opened schools, though others are afraid to come to school due to the virus. The headmaster has asked everyone to return to school, but many have stayed away, even if face masks are being provided in schools. I have a few friends who have even travelled to various places, leaving school.”
Before the coronavirus outbreak, SCI had been running an emergency school feeding program, where children at school receive food to stave off hunger while they are learning. Due to the closure of schools, SCI changed the distribution modality of distribution by packaging the food into take home food packs collected by parents and guardians from schools. As part of the SCI COVID-19 response, schools under the emergency school feeding programme were supplied with handwashing facilities and child friendly IEC materials while awareness on community radio is also being carried out.
Mutinta’s story in her own words (quotes):
“I live with my parents and two of my siblings here in Gwembe but my other two siblings live with my grandmother in Kapiri Mposhi (a district in the central province). My parents are farmers, they plant maize, groundnuts and cotton. There have been no rains in the last farming year and all the crops they planted dried up, but my parents received food packages from an organization called UK Aid and recently as schools where reopening, we received maize, beans and cooking oil from Save the Children who have been giving us beans and nshima (corn porridge) to eat at school since last year. Ever since the outbreak, our living situations have been difficult due to the restrictions on movement. My parents are unable to receive money which helped pay for my school fees. This money was from my uncle (my father’s elder brother) who is a truck driver. The government closed the borders so truck driver’s like my uncle have been left without employment.
In March, schools suddenly closed and we were told that it was because of Coronavirus. What I know is that the Coronavirus is a disease that causes a person to have a rash all over their body and make them cough. To avoid contracting the disease, one should always wear a face mask and wash their hands with soap. In school, we must sit at least a metre away from each other. When we closed schools because of the coronavirus, I stayed home and helped my parents with harvesting some of the maize that had survived from the drought. While at home, I also used to study my books and do the homework we were given before schools closed.
When I hear about the Coronavirus, I am afraid, because I have heard that people who contract the disease die within a short period. During the period when schools had closed some girls got married like my friend who got married but was called back to school by the headmaster and I am happy that she is back now but my other friend refused to return to school although she has left her marriage now and is staying with her father.
I am happy that we have opened schools, although others are afraid to come back to school due to the virus. The headmaster has asked everyone to return to school, but many have stayed away, even if face masks are being provided in schools. Save the Children has also provided handwashing buckets and put posters in the school. I have a few friends who have even travelled to various places so they haven’t returned to school even if we have opened.
I like making people laugh, be happy and I don’t like being upset with anyone. I like to teach my friends how to read and write in Tonga (local language). When I grow up, I want to help my parents and others who are not working. I want to be a nurse when I grow up so that I can help take care of the sick such as those who are suffering from cancer and HIV. Some people have died from these diseases in my family.”