, 13 May, 2020 / 1:30 AM
As schools in Chad remain closed due to COVID-19-related restrictions, teachers working under the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), the international refugee organization of the Society of Jesus (Jesuits), are engaging refugees in the landlocked north-central African nation, conveying messages on safety measures to prevent the spread of the virus in the communities.
¨We came together to raise awareness among the community. Our students are part of it, so it is important for us to spread the message,¨ Ibrahim Isaakh, a Natural Sciences teacher in Djabal, Southeastern Chad has told JRS.
On her part, Fatimé Ali Rifa, a teacher in Touloum refugee camp, Iriba, located in the East of the country has been recommending frequent handwashing, avoidance of crowds and public gatherings as precautionary measures to the prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease.
Schools in Chad, Africa’s fifth largest nation, have remained closed since March 19, a move that the leadership of JRS says has brought new challenges to the more than 102,000 refugee students across the country.
“Their (students) academic engagement is at risk of great delay as many refugees lack a TV or radio to be able to follow the telematic classes offered by the government,” JRS leadership has noted.
For Abdelhamid Ibrahim Radjab, a teacher at Amnabak refugee camp in Iriba, Eastern Chad, every time he meets a parent of a child in his school area, he reminds them to ask their child to “review the materials they have already learnt at school in order to be ready for their [upcoming] exam.”
Considering that the schools also serve as points of safety, reconciliation, and community awareness, their closure means that “children are more vulnerable to domestic, sexual and gender-based violence, as well as exploitation.”
“For the students, the closure of the schools affects their schedules, as they won’t be able to finish the programme,” Abdallah Ahmat, Math teacher at Djabal refugee camp has said and added, “The community is worried; it is not sure what will happen with the future of our children. The question is when is this all going to finish?”
As the 40-year-old Jesuit agency monitors the situation in the semi-desert country, the leaders are putting in place strategies to continue the school calendar including intensifying the courses to allow students to complete the syllabus.
As a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of the disease among students, the leaders are considering arranging for each class to include no more than 10 students.
The students may also study from home in groups of three or four, to be monitored by teachers willing to go from home to home to check what the students are doing and guiding them in revisions.
The leadership of JRS has expressed confidence in the teachers under their program noting, “Throughout all the uncertainties, one thing is clear: the commitment of our teachers has never wavered.”
“We hope that the situation gets better soon to allow the teachers and students to walk back to school. For the moment, and till the end of the pandemic, we will continue supporting our students with home-based learning,” Makka Abdallah Dehie, a primary teacher at Mile refugee camp, Guereda, Eastern Chad has noted.
With programs across 56 countries across the world, JRS runs seven refugee camps in Chad.
Founded in November 1980 by Jesuit Fr. Andrew Arrupe, the mission of JRS is “to accompany, serve, and advocate on behalf of refugees and other forcibly displaced persons, that they may heal, learn, and determine their own future.”
This story was adapted from the May 11 report by JRS West Africa.
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa