The Polytechnic School Huambo
In 1991, Huambo Children’s School was founded as a boarding school for orphans and vulnerable children. It later became a day school for students from the surrounding communities and, in 2011, began offering both the EPP program as well as primary and secondary school for pupils from 2nd to 9th Grade. To-date, 299 students have graduated from EPP Huambo, 105 of whom are female.
EPP Huambo is located in Quissala, about seven kilometres from the city of Huambo, and is part of an educational complex that includes Teacher Training School Huambo and Frontline Institute. The school provides its students with a lower secondary education together with technical skills and knowledge in the fields of Information & Media and the Environment, the two courses offered in 8th and 9th Grade. At the beginning of 2020, EPP Huambo enrolled 40 students in 7th Grade, 45 in 8th Grade and 20 in 9th Grade. 32 of the 105 students were females.
On 24 March, the school closed when the government declared a state of emergency in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. Prior to closing, EPP Huambo organised the first phase of distance learning by holding a common meeting to explain the situation, by providing all three grades with material to work on at home and by collecting contact information to keep in touch with the students. Until the resumption of classes, EPP Huambo teachers prepared and sent assignments to the students, evaluated their responses and encouraged them to keep up their studies to avoid falling behind.
When it became clear that lessons at the school would be interrupted due to Covid-19, class coordinators prepared assignments for study at home to cover the secondary school curriculum subjects. Course coordinators prepared material specific to the courses of Information & Media and Environment Promoter.
A week plan helped guide the students, with suggestions about what they should study in the morning (curriculum subjects) and in the afternoon (practical assignments). The teaching staff kept in touch with the students by telephone, sms, Facebook and WhatsApp and each grade had a group page on Facebook and on WhatsApp. Parents and guardians were closely involved in the whole process. 11 of the students could not be contacted to receive tasks by internet or mobile phone applications, so the teachers sought other means such as home visits in the case of those living near the school, or enquiries by way of colleagues.
As a practical contribution to raising awareness about the Covid-19 pandemic, the students created posters to explain to families and neighbours about preventative measures and established tippy taps for hand washing.
In preparation for the lifting of the state of emergency and for the new measures proposed to reduce the risk of new outbreaks of Covid-19, the school organised protocols for visitors and for teaching with reduced class sizes.
Before and during the state of emergency, the teachers’ council collaborated with the authorities at all levels with respect to how the school should function, including the preventative measure to adopt such as the organisation of students within the classroom and the establishment of water points with soap for regular hand washing.