MAURITANIA: The impact of COVID-19 on children’s education

The impact of COVID-19 on children’s education

By El Hassan Mohamed El Hussein

Like the rest of the world, Mauritania has suffered from the Corona crisis, and the social life of people has been affected by the closure and the imposition of curfews, which has exacerbated the suffering, especially the suffering of low-income people.

After the first infection with the Coronavirus appeared in mid-March of the year 2020, the authorities announced the suspension of the study for a week, turning it into months of closure and stopping.

There are no official figures or estimates about the extent of the decline in student levels due to leaving the classroom. 

Ahmed Walad Sidi, a resident of the Dubai neighborhood in the Toujounine district, chronicles his life during the Corona crisis by saying, “Everything has stopped and we have experienced the real suffering, our priorities have changed, the studies have stopped and the children’s levels have declined dramatically.”

Walad Sidi provides simple services to a limited list of clients who share the same economic and living standard with him. His activity relies on building residential “huts” for the poor in the marginal neighborhoods of Nouakchott.

This profession provides him with a daily income of up to 2000 old ounces, or about 2.5 US dollars, which is sufficient to meet some of his family’s basic needs, which consists of seven children, four of whom are of school-age.

He talks about his suffering with the closure – in addition to the lack of work and the poor profitability of it – “The curfew that begins at four hampers a lot of work because sometimes we need to work until seven or eight at night.”

He added: “My priorities in life have changed. My only concern is to find something to support my family’s life. I did not think of anything else. I lost a lot of clients and I went out to look for any work in order to provide their daily livelihood, nothing more.”

Some Mauritanian families were able to provide home lessons for their children to maintain their educational levels after the end of the closure period.

The Ministry of National Education and Reform of the Education System announced lessons for students via television, and the Nouakchott Regional Council established a platform for distance learning.

Many see the limited benefit of students from these initiatives due to the lack of experience of the supervising cadres in these media, as well as the weakness of the Internet, and the lack of television sets for all families, especially the weak ones, as is the case with Ahmed Walad Sidi.

Mustafa Abdul Rahman, a community activist – a resident of Toujounine – was able, with a group of his colleagues, to establish an educational initiative under the name “Virtual School” to provide reinforcement lessons to students during the suspension period.

He described the experience by saying: “It was a successful experience. We helped many students and they actually managed to succeed in the baccalaureate.”

He added: “We used the WhatsApp application to deliver lessons for several considerations, first: because it provides the ability to keep pace with the student, so it is not required that he be present at the time of the lesson, but that he will get it at any time he entered the Internet, and it does not consume a lot of the Internet, unlike the Zoom application that was used in some official initiatives.

Despite the sudden nature of the virus, which confused the government and the Ministry of Education and placed it in front of difficult choices, it was able – albeit slowly – to intervene to reduce the impact of the pandemic and fill the void caused by the suspension of lessons, and the emergence of some youth initiatives mitigated the severity of the crisis.

It remains confident that the most vulnerable group is the one that has been dramatically affected and has not yet been able to fully recover from the crisis, whether at the economic level or otherwise. To avoid such a recurrence, it is necessary to raise the level of readiness so that children obtain their right to education in all circumstances.

This report was produced with the support of JDH/JHR – Journalists for Human Rights and Global Affairs in Canada.

 This story was originally published by 24.mr

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