Counting the costs: Exploring the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic in rural schools in Lesotho
Pandemics, even long forgotten ones, are identified with leaving long-term consequences in their wake. The COVID-19 pandemic reached catastrophic levels in Africa, the same way that it has thrown the economic and social wheels of China, the United States, and part of Europe off the rails. The chaos in Africa is being felt more on education especially in rural Southern Africa. Schools in rural areas, already reeling from extreme poverty, economic vulnerability and crisis have to bear the most severe brunt from the epidemic. This study seeks to explore the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on rural education and uses data from online interviews with 10 rural-based teachers on the effects of the COVID-19 in rural schools in Lesotho. The study strives to address two questions: what are the effects of COVID-19 on education in rural schools and what steps have been taken to mitigate the effects of COVID-19-induced school closures? Findings from this study show that enforced school closures in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19, though temporary, are disrupting the lives of learners especially rural learners. Where school closures were meant to be short term, their impact on learners, families and educators, particularly for those in the most marginalized locations such as rural areas cannot be mitigated. Nonetheless, there has been some considerable innovation in an attempt to mitigate the effects of the pandemic through bridging the gap between the classroom and an entirely remote setting by the introduction of different forms of online and/or distance education which has led to the initiation of novel forms of learning which however still remain elusive for most rural learners.
Key words: COVID-19; Coronavirus; pandemic; epidemic; school closures; rural schools; online education
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