Adjustments have had to be made in the manner of learning in order to keep the infectious disease at bay.
Whether we like it or not, the manner in which classes are organised in Cameroon’s schools will for some time be quite different from what obtained before March 18, 2020. Thanks to the advent of the Coronavirus or COVID-19 pandemic whose number of positive cases stood at 10 on March 17, 2020. With the scare that continues to be caused by the highly infectious viral disease and the stark reality of its untold devastation on the ground, it could not have been otherwise. Changes had to be effected at various levels to try to contain the unprecedented health challenge.
One of government’s first moves was to order the immediate shutdown of schools on March 18, 2020 after a steady rise in the number of COVID-19 positive cases. The decision concerned nursery, elementary, secondary and high schools; tertiary institutions and universities. Pupils and students were sent on an indefinite break just a few weeks to the start of the 2019-2020 Second Term holidays. The aim was to forestall the spread of the virus in the school milieu.
Apart from tertiary institutions and universities that have since resumed full classes – after making the necessary adjustments – nursery and primary school pupils, and secondary and high school students have for the most part remained out of class since mid March 2020. This situation will continue until early October 2020 when a belated 2020-2021 academic year is expected to begin. On the other hand, pupils and students in certificate examination classes returned to school on June 1, 2020 for six weeks to revise their lessons and prepare for national examinations.
For those who resumed classes on June 1, 2020, special arrangements were made to help prevent the spread of Coronavirus. The number of pupils or students per class was slashed to about 25. This was made possible by the absence of the rest of the pupils and empty classrooms. So also was sitting. Pupils and students now sit two on a bench – and at both ends – in respect of the recommended physical distance of at least a metre apart. Gone therefore are those days when school children sat close to each other, thereby facilitating cheating. The same sitting arrangements obtained both for lessons and examinations.
While the unplanned-for school break lasted before the 2019-2020 academic year ended, elementary school authorities ensured that some measure of learning went on. Assignments shared with parents through WhatsApp social media platforms were downloaded and given to pupils and students. The work was then taken to school on fixed days for correction by teachers. On some occasions, teachers provided marking guides on WhatsApp for parents to use in correcting their children’s work.
Government also organised live radio and television broadcasts of lessons for pupils and students sitting this year’s primary school, secondary school and high school certificate examinations. This was done on public television, the Cameroon Radio Television, CRTV. Some independent television channels later emulated the example. Similarly, the temperature of school children was taken before entry into campuses. School authorities also provided soap and water for regular washing of hands. In the alternative, hand sanitisers were used. All in a bid to prevent the spread of Coronavirus amongst school children and teachers.