Nurturing Minds/SEGA School-Driven Response to Covid-19 in Tanzania (Part 5, Covid-19 Response Series)

by Shira Landskroner-Eiger

Background
The SEGA (Secondary Education for Girls Advancement) Girls’ School is a residential secondary school for bright, motivated Tanzanian girls who otherwise would be unable to attend school due to extreme poverty or hardship. Housing over 260 students, SEGA uses a holistic approach to education which includes an academically challenging Tanzanian curriculum, entrepreneurship development, and a comprehensive life skills and leadership program.

“Msichana Kisasa” (MK) or “Modern Girl” is a program SEGA developed in 2016 that provides a safe space within the communities surrounding SEGA where girls form clubs and are mentored by SEGA graduates. In these MK Clubs, trained SEGA graduates facilitate peer mentoring and deliver key messages, covering such topics as: improving self-confidence and communication skills; and increasing skills, knowledge, and awareness with respect to girls’ rights, health, hygiene, and financial literacy. Many of the girls in the MK Clubs, especially in Iringa Region, are not able to attend school and so the MK program provides a platform for girls to meet other girls of the same age (10-12, 13-15, and 16-18 years), and serves as an opportunity for SEGA to expand its reach and for the students to give back to their communities.

School Reopening: SEGA provided reusable masks and toiletries to each student upon their return. The masks were embroidered with the student’s ID number to avoid mask sharing. Photo Credit: SEGA Girls’ School.

Schools Reopen Amidst Covid-19 Pandemic – Our Response
After schools were closed in light of the pandemic, SEGA was thrilled to reopen in late June, in accordance with the Tanzanian government authorization. New measures to prevent COVID-19 spread on campus have been carefully planned and executed. All public and private school systems in Tanzania were closed for a total of 3.5 months. SEGA, together with its founding organization Nurturing Minds, throughout this period, pursued a holistic approach to ensure students, graduates, staff, the girls in the Modern Girl community outreach program, and their families were informed of the COVID-19 pandemic, maintained connection with SEGA for support, students had education continuity, and all received masks and soap to help maintain good hygiene. The following are our actions taken upon the school reopening:

  • Every student received a set of 4 masks and toiletries upon entry onto campus; 
  • Temperature of all students and staff was checked upon entry to school and daily, for the first 4 weeks;
  • 23 hand washing stations with liquid soap were installed around campus;
  • A quarantine room has been prepared for students that show COVID-19 symptoms. In which case students will be observed by school nurse. If symptoms continue, school will communicate with Municipal physician for next steps;
  • And Tanzanian Government has mandated the addition of two class hours per day to compensate for the time lost when school was closed.
In daily campus life, we have also made the following changes:
  • Students and staff maintain social distancing (2 meters) to the best of their ability at all times, apart from mealtime;
  • School is enforcing a policy of “staying at home if unwell” for staff and “reporting to nurse if unwell” for students;
  • Masks are worn by all staff, students and visitors at all times. Excluding eating, showering and sleeping.
  • Hand washing is required before entry to class, upon leaving classrooms, before eating and after restroom.
  • Density in dorms was reduced by relocating a bunk bed from each dorm, and repopulating these into a new dorm.  Thus, reducing density in each dorm. Curtains were removed from large windows to enhance ventilation. Bunk Bed buddies orient themselves in a “head to toe” positioning.
  • Dining modifications included adding 2 open tents for students to dine at 3 separate locations, thus reducing density during this time (6 students/table instead of 12).
  • Diet will be supplemented with oranges, baobab juice and ginger. Cooks will wear masks and gloves when handling food, serving food in the dining area.
  • Teachers are wearing overcoats and masks, using projectors, observing social distance and once available will be equipped with 3D printed face shields.
  • Visitors will be asked to remain outside.

A student using one of the 23 hand washing stations which were installed on SEGA’s campus. Hand washing is required before entry to class, upon leaving the classrooms, before and after eating and using the restrooms. Photo Credit: SEGA Girls’ School.

SEGA and Nurturing Minds have developed together tools to monitor and support the SEGA students, and girls participating in the Modern Girl program during the ongoing pandemic. During their time off campus, we aimed to remind the adolescent girls in our SEGA network that this crisis is temporary and that they should maintain their educational aspirations, which requires that they return to school when schools reopen.  Additional resources were provided through phone counseling and educational packages reminding them of their rights.  All together, we have reached over 1,200 girls and several hundred of their family members spread over 25 different communities in Tanzania. This line of support ensured monetary, educational, and health-related sustainability to the SEGA community. To learn more about this, please check out our Impact Statement.

Supporting SEGA’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund
The COVID-19 Emergency Fund has been instrumental in enabling support of our students, partners in the community, staff and campus modifications as we adjust to this new unprecedented reality. Despite the drastic change in circumstances, our goal remains to continue providing quality, holistic education to vulnerable girls in Tanzania. Over $90,000 has been raised through US-based individual contributors, foundations, school partnerships, and two informational webinars. We estimate needing approximately $150,000 to cover all COVID-related emergency needs. This funding has been crucial to us as we continue to this work.

For more information about our Covid response, please read our impact statement here:

 
Please also check out our recent webinar on our Covid-19 response:
 
And to learn more about Nurturing Minds/SEGA, please visit:

https://www.nurturingmindsinafrica.org

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