Opinion: Tanzanian children face a bleak future under lockdown | World| Breaking news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 12.05.2020
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Tanzania

Opinion: Tanzanian children face a bleak future under lockdown

Tanzanian schoolkids need to stay at home during the COVID-19 crisis. They are dependent on a variety of media and technologies for their school lessons. Children living in poverty have — once again — been left behind.

Education is widely perceived as a stepping stone to Tanzania's goal of catching up with the 'advanced world' and building a middle class. 

As the the COVID-19 pandemic prevents people from moving about freely, cutting off physical contacts, new ways of learning and educating young people in isolation have become a central issue.

Children at school raise their hands (Imago/F. Stark)

It may be some time before children around the world can go back school

No access

The shutdown of schools has led to a new reliance on modern technology for virtual learning, shutting out thousands of poorer pupils from online lessons. Radios are considered unfashionable and many families cannot afford to buy a computer or a television for their children's education.

Digital life

Many Tanzanians watch radio and TV broadcasts on their cellphones. Those children who own phones usually have low-budget models that don't support the apps they need for their education programs. The government, which used to provide radios to communities, stopped doing so many years ago.

A mobile phones is therefore the most likely platform for a learner under lockdown during the COVID-19 crisis.

Tanzania Daressalam Fahrgäste mit Mundmasken (DW/S. Khamis)

Face masks are mandatory in Tanzania's public transportation

How to cope with sudden change

For students, communication is crucial for success because it ensures guidance and supervision by teachers. But can the youth cope with the sudden change of routine? 

Keeping up-to-date with virtual video lessons is often an issue because not everybody has access to a constant electricity supply. Even those homes and institutions with power suffer from frequent outages.

Students with the necessary technology — and the means to power it — are willing and able to forge ahead in pursuit of their education.

Opportunities arise from the crisis

The COVID-19 crisis also provides many teachers with an unexpected opportunity to incorporate information and communication technologies into virtual lessons. If teachers fail to add to their skillsets, they are likely to add to the growing list of roblems posed by the pandemic.

While the situation is a challenging one, it also provides an opportunity for those who are willing to take the lead. Urban populations around the world are bound to adapt to the new way of working, but what is seen my many as a temporary measure could quite easily become a permanent one.  

It took just three months for the world to realize how much of an invisible, silent menace the coronavirus was. Not only has it killed hundreds of thousands of people, it had also thrown the lives of millions into disarray and upset the prospects of a similar number of young people.

Protect cyberspace 

Everybody has a story to tell about the disease that is challenging all businesses and professions. Now is the time for Africa's young generation to show how it can help by designing apps and providing new services.

For instance, every students need their own textbooks which they cannot share with others in order to avoid contagion. Printers should start churning out books for the whole nation. Booksellers and stationers everywhere must be well-stocked.

We have to make sure that we flatten the infection curve. But we also need to do more to guard against malicious online activities that target public institutions, which could include the education sector. The pandemic has helped reveal our weaknesses as individuals and as a nation. It is time to react quickly and prepare because, the worst may not be far off. 

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