“Oh Bibi Harry, they just want to come back to Kitenga!”
I’m ‘Bibi Harry’, and a couple of weeks ago, when Sister Faustina (Head of School) and I were finally able to connect via a Whats App call, that is what she shared with me. “They just want to come back”.
Today, three months after a government mandated closure due to Covid-19, the Kitenga Girls Secondary School is re-opening. The school scene is no doubt looking a bit different with everybody wearing a face mask and the physical space between people much greater than the norm, but I know the heart and soul of the school remains unchanged.
The school’s re-opening fits into the grey space between black and white:
- There is nervousness & anxiety knowing the school is reopening while the extent of Covid-19 in Tanzania is not well understood.
- There is relief in the school reopening as adolescent girls are at even higher risk when not in school during crisis conditions (Malala Fund report on girls education and COVID-19)
- There is hope in seeing the photos trickle in of them arriving back on campus that our unsettled world might be settling back
- There is the reassurance in knowing first hand just how tough, resilient and determined this school community is. They’ve been pressure-tested once before when the dorm was set fire. They are survivors and re-builders, and are committed to staying on their pathways to opportunity.
Before accepting students back, schools were required to demonstrate preventative safety measures. Through your support, GEC was able to help procure needed materials and supplies: touchless hand washing stations, soaps disinfectants and more. Thank you!!
All returning students and teachers were screened by the doctor. There was a mandatory information session. Signs have been posted everywhere! No doubt the teachers will have to do A LOT of reminding about mask wearing and social distancing, but adjust they will.
Looking a bit ahead, we anticipate that the needs of some girls may have shifted in light of the country’s economic fall-out from the pandemic. Girls who were paying their school fees may no longer be able to. We are closely monitoring the situation and are prepared to be responsive once there is more clarity.
GEC continues to actively fundraise for new initiatives in response to Covid-19 (more info HERE). These are critical health and safety infrastructure needs and we are working closely with the Sisters to help see these priorities realized.
I’ve just received word that National Exams will begin at the end of November and there will be a graduation for Kitenga’s inaugural graduating class! We anticipate that there may be some more twists and turns along the way. We’ll keep you posted, let you know how you can help and will keep sharing the stories and ambitions of some of the world’s most deserving girls.