To help them stay on track, we bought data for the students, recorded video lessons, and delivered them via WhatsApp. Students downloaded them overnight and watched them during daily ‘classes,’ while writing in via WhatsApp to have group discussions or ask questions about problem sets. We also managed to maintain some of our school community, continuing with our tradition of roll call, serializing an audio book for the school to read, and sending chains of happy birthday texts.
The students took advantage of the time at home to complete service projects in their communities, some of which had significant impact. Several started a WhatsApp group to provide daily Covid updates, which reached a readership of nearly 1,000 across Zimbabwe. Others cleaned or constructed bathrooms for members of their community to use, or created a Covid awareness program in a local prison. We are proud that not only did they stay on track with their lessons during this difficult time, but they were also part of the solution in helping mitigate the risk of Covid in Zimbabwe.
In late October, we resumed in-person classes, with students undergoing a two-week quarantine period upon arrival back to campus. Unfortunately since then we have been disrupted by two more lockdowns, and our first class of students will now graduate in December 2021 having spent the majority of their time at USAP Community School learning online. And our second class of students spent their first two months with us in January-March 2021 doing online lessons.
Even with all of their online learning, our first class of students earned extraordinary marks on their first set of Cambridge exams, a testament to their grit and also to the work of our teachers in helping them through difficult times. As of August 2021 we have 100% of our staff and over 75% of our students vaccinated, and we have not had a single Covid case on campus since the pandemic started.
Though of course we would have preferred not to have to negotiate the challenges that came with Covid, we are proud of how all members of the USAP community have risen to this difficult time.