Across the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has led to an almost complete closure of schools, universities and colleges. According to UNESCO, these nationwide shutdowns are affecting about 72% of the world’s student population.
Remote learning is one of the ways in which many countries have sought to minimize the impact of educational disruption to millions of learners. South Sudan is no exception.
To help students continue their learning despite COVID-19, Radio Miraya, which is operated by the United Nations Mission in South Sudan, has begun broadcasting lessons in support of a remote learning initiative developed by the Ministry of General Education and UNICEF.
The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General, David Shearer, joined the Head of UNICEF South Sudan and the Minister of General Education live on Radio Miraya to launch the new programme. The lessons will be interactive with children able to phone in with questions and to participate in on-air quizzes. They will be aired daily between 10-11am and repeated between 2-3pm.
“When we heard about the difficulties being faced by the Ministry and UNICEF in reaching out to school children across the country, we, at UNMISS, immediately offered our broadcasting platform,” said David Shearer. “We are pleased to help because Radio Miraya has the most extensive reach across the country, so it is the best way to reach large and diverse audiences, including children living in remote communities.”
The initiative came about following the closure of schools to help curb the spread of COVID-19. The Ministry of Education wanted to offer distance learning through radio, as it is one of the most common and accessible communication tools in the country. UNICEF provided the Ministry with support for developing a distance learning plan.
“COVID-19 has posed a challenge for everyone across the globe. The education system in South Sudan was greatly affected and, once the schools shut down, it was important for children to continue their lessons at home,” said Awut Deng Acuil, Minister of General Education. “I think today will be a great day for students as they will be keenly listening when the programmes start. I thank UNMISS and UNICEF for their support.”
Initially, the lessons were being broadcast through the national radio service. However, it had limited coverage to the states and three administrative areas. So, a decision was made to use Radio Miraya’s network to increase the reach.
“My message to all our listeners as we work together with the Government and our partners is please be patient. Everything will be okay and these lessons will go to your homes,” said Alfred Anasi Dominic, a primary school teacher. “I am very happy that we are broadcasting on Radio Miraya because it reaches the largest audience in our country. When you go to any state, Miraya is broadcasting. I believe our listeners, our people, will benefit greatly from the programme.”
UNMISS also hopes that other radio stations will carry these lessons simultaneously by hooking into Radio Miraya’s signal during broadcast times so that children in every part of the country can benefit.
“This is the least we can do at a time when the lives of so many young people are being affected by this pandemic,” said the Chief of Radio Miraya, Ratomir Petrovic. “We hope that our collective efforts at Radio Miraya with the Ministry of Education and UNICEF will help the children of South Sudan to continue their education.”
This contribution is just one of the many awareness-raising efforts made by UNMISS in support of the national-led COVID-19 response. Radio Miraya has fully dedicated its news and other programming to informing people about the risks of the virus and how to prevent it. The mission is distributing tens of thousands of information leaflets and posters, running promo-trucks around the country, including Protection of Civilian sites, to educate people and, through its field offices, renovating hospitals and aiding the work of healthcare professionals by handing over much-needed medical supplies and ambulance services.
Source: UN Mission in South Sudan