On the 1st of June awarenet reopened its computer labs to high school learners in the core group program after a two months break! This followed the South African government’s announcement of downgrading the COVID-19 lockdown. The new so-called level 3 regulations allows educational institutions to start operating as long as strict protocols for the prevention of COVID-19 are followed.
awarenet was together with its partners at the Joza Youth Hub well prepared for the gradual reopening as the board of the Joza Youth Hub already in May agreed to the new strict COVID-19 rules and the purchase of necessary protective equipment such as sanitisers and a thermometer. The awarenet computer labs could therefore reopen the very first day this was made possible by the regulations; we did not want to waste a day in waiting to see our learners again!
The first excited awarenet learners thus entered a new environment on the 1st of June; only three learners are allowed in each of our two computer labs at the time, masks must be worn at all times, hands must be washed before entering the labs, everyone must keep 1.5 metres distance and eating is only allowed in the outdoor area. The computer labs and its computer equipment such as keyboards and mouses are sanitised every morning before use. Furthermore, every learner who enters the Joza Youth Hub is screened for COVID-19 symptoms and has her or his temperature measured.
The learners quickly got used to this new normal and dived straight into our program which aim for the acquisition of educational knowledge through the use of digital resources. Now in the time of COVID-19 we have even more focus on the actual South African school curriculum as none of the learners have attended school since late March and therefore have missed out on vital parts of the school year. The learners are in grades 8-11 and might go back to school later in July and August though it is currently not clear if this will happen as many of the schools they attend in Makhanda are closed due to COVID-19 cases among staff.
We have found that our learners after this long involuntarily break from school were eager to start learning again. The academic fatigue they occasionally suffered from in the past seems to have gone, we can now rather spur a new urgency in the thirst for learning! We are glad that we have been able to offer that to our core group learners in the whole month of June, thereby reducing the negative impact of the COVID-19 school closure on a group of learners from disadvantaged backgrounds.