A GRADE 12 pupil at Milemu Secondary School in Lufwanyama District on the Copperbelt Province has lamented that learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic is especially difficult for learners in rural areas.

Prescovia Kasazhi, 17, says some of her peers have fell pregnant when schools were indefinitelt closed in March while those from poor and vulnerable households were unable to access government sponsored learning programmes on TV and online.

Prescovia urged government to invest more in e-learning by ensuring more support for pupils in rural areas.

“COVID-19 has affected the learning of children in many ways. Most children in Zambia are not going to school at the moment because only pupils in examination classes have been allowed to reopen. Those children who are not going to school are behind in learning, especially children like me who are coming from rural areas. Most children here in Lufwanyama don’t have anything to do especially girls; so they are falling pregnant as a result of just staying at home without doing anything. This is bad for a girl child because when they become pregnant, some of the girls are shy to go back to school. Even at our school there are some girls who have fallen pregnant and some of these are actually in exam classes; they are in Grade nine and 12 some of these girls who are pregnant. So these girls refuse to go back to school, they are just staying at home. Some of these are girls who never intended to get pregnant while in school but because they didn’t have anything to do after closure of the schools, they ended up engaging in illicit activities and getting pregnant,” Prescovia said in an interview.

“So this is really worrying and to me as a girl child it’s something I fear would even make development in this country to go down because the goodness with education is that it helps in the improvement of the welfare of citizens. But when schools have been closed indefinitely like this and pupils are not certain when they would return to school, it is going to make a lot of children to lose their creativity and become very dull. And for girls it’s even worse because then girls will just be falling pregnant anyhow and this will just worsen the burden of our parents.”

She explained some of the challenges she was facing as a pupil in an examination class.

“Staying at home really affected me a lot in terms of studying. When I am at school, I am able to study, but when I am at home it’s difficult to study. So during that time of the closure I was finding it very hard because we were not allowed to go anywhere and at home you know there are younger sisters and brothers and those make it difficult to study during the day and for me I study during the day. But while at home I was unable to study during the day because of the disturbances. So this made me to really be behind with school work and it is very dangerous for someone who is an examination class to stop studying. I imagine this is the experience with many other who are not going to school; they must be getting behind in their studies,” she said.

And Prescovia called for more investment in online education.

“Some of the steps taken by the leaders such as the introduction of TV learning are commendable. But some children from vulnerable households and those from rural areas, some of them don’t have access to those things and it is making it difficult to learn on TV because they don’t have TV sets to use to access education. I would therefore propose that the government invests in more online and TV learning so that all children in Zambia can have access to education. Then government should also provide more learning materials like books to areas where children are not able to go to school due to the closures can continue to study as schools are still closed,” she said.

Meanwhile, Prescovia encouraged learners in non-examination classes who were still not allowed to go back to school to continue studying in order to keep their minds active.

“My fellow children, do not be relaxed just because you are not going to school. Continue studying as you wait for schools to be reopened for you as well. Study hard and look for study material wherever you can; on the internet, TV channels, books and many other materials so that you can continue staying informed and keeping your brains active. I wish to also appeal to the government to continue providing us with the necessary material such as face masks, sanitisers, water buckets and even to build more schools as well as provide desks so that the social distancing guidelines can be followed well,” said Prescovia.