Like so many schools around the world, we have been affected by the spread of Covid-19. When the government in Zimbabwe shut schools down in late March, we moved to distance learning, though with the additional challenge that most of our students did not have internet access.
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. Once we feel that campus is Covid-free, we will be able to resume more normal on-campus operations, though access to campus will be tightly restricted in order to maintain a safe ‘bubble’ for those on campus.
We are proud of how all members of the USAP community have risen to this difficult time. Though of course we would have preferred not to have to negotiate the challenges that came with Covid, we feel that our school and our students remain in a strong position even after the trials of the last 8 months.