Back to School – Corona Edition

This photo shows a young 11 year old girl studying her notes in her classroom. She is wearing a mask and is surrounded by other students in the background.

After spending two months at home under lockdown, 11-year-old Nguigne is happy to be back at school with her friends.

On 6 March 2020, Cameroon confirmed its first COVID-19 case. As the virus spread and the number of confirmed cases increased, the government decided to close all schools. More than two months after suspension of classes due to the coronavirus, final year students in primary school and secondary school returned to school in early June 2020.

In Promhandicam, a CBM local partner in Yaoundé, Cameroon, classes have resumed for final year students sitting in for Common Entrance Examinations and First School Leaving Certificate exams. The school is taking dispositions to keep the students and staff safe from COVID.

It is 7:45 am and echoes of shouts and screams can be heard from one end of the school campus. About thirty kids in green and brown uniforms are running around, playing in front of their class.

Classes start at 8 am. The kids who have come early are playing and talking with their friends. They have their masks on and occasionally some pull down the masks and wear them on their chins.

One of them shouts. “The teacher is coming!” Immediately they run and form a single line, adjusting their masks. Silence ensues. Madame Jeanine, a staff of Promhandicam, enters the classroom and sanitizes it with disinfectants. She comes out and pours disinfectant in the big bucket at the handwash point in front of the class. This is her routine every morning.

I come early every day to disinfect the class clean the benches before any kid is allowed into class. I inspect and ensure all the kids have their masks on, then they wash their hands with soap and dry their hands with tissue paper before entering the class.
Madame Jeanine, staff at Promhandicam

There are 31 students in all, including nine students with disabilities. They bring their facemasks from home. The school obliges the students to sit one on a bench.

My grandfather is a tailor and he sewed five face masks for me. Each day I bring one to school. When I go home, I wash and dry it. I have a clean mask for every day of the week. Wearing a mask will help protect me from getting corona. I keep hearing about the virus on the radio at home. We have to wash our hands and wear masks to avoid getting it.
Daphne, an 11-year-old student
This photo shows a class teacher wearing a mask standing in front of the black board. Several students have their hands raised, to answer the teacher's questions.

Mr. Rene, the class teacher, is conducting a spelling test in class.


Daphne is excited to be back in school. She says: “During the two months when we were not coming to school, I missed my friends a lot. Now I am happy to be back in school where we can learn and play together and prepare for our exams. I am eager to go to secondary school next year.”

Like Daphne, 14-year-old Matti is happy to be back in school too. She is blind and at Promhandicam she has a community of friends and classmates.

During the break I missed my friends a lot. I was happy to be home with my siblings, however they do not know how to read braille, so studying was hard for me because when I had a question, they could not quite help me. Here in school my classmates understand braille and I can study together with them and get clarifications when I have a question. In class the teacher explains the lessons very well.
Matti, a student at Promhandicam

Matti is preparing hard for final year examinations that will permit her go to secondary school. She is not yet clear about what she wants to do when she grows up, but she wants to learn several languages like English and German.

Mr Rene, the class teacher is happy to have the students back in school.

The students worked hard throughout the year. I was worried when schools shut down because I feared they may not be able to take end of year exams. During the lockdown, we made efforts to teach the students remotely. I used to send assignments to students through their parents on WhatsApp. Some parents were unable to assist the students with impairments, for instance those who use braille. It made it hard for me to conduct follow-ups with the students with special needs. I am glad that they are back in class and we are preparing for the exams. I can assist them better in a physical setting.
Mr. Rene, the class teacher