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Theme 1: How governments are positioning, activating and supporting public institutions such as school systems in multi-pronged efforts to contain COVID-19.

Thematic lead: Veronica McKay
Peer Reviewer: Marcia Socikwa and Mary Kangethe
Lead Organisation: University of South Africa (UNISA)


The Covid-19 pandemic and the associated rapid spread of the virus compelled Governments to declare a national state of disaster and to implement a series of regulations and protocols for the various stages and levels of lockdown. Amongst other social institutions, these regulations governed the access of learners across the education sector - both formal and nonformal - and cut across the education sub-sectors from pre- to post-schooling. 

In terms of the protocols put in place, the need for social distancing was paramount, and required educational institutions to take steps to endeavour to ensure that education functioned optimally, and a range of preparations went into ensuring some form of functionality. 

There is obviously a class-dimension to how severely COVID-19 impacted on teaching and learning as often the interventions relied. 

Parents being involved in home teaching - the absence of parents, or the low literacy/education levels of parents have thwarted these interventions.

Other interventions relied on digital media and problems of educational inclusion was exacerbated by the digital divide and deepened the socio-economic problems that persisted in the education sector. 

We are aware that the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic reached beyond the actual spread of the virus, which while a significant health danger, also has wide ramifications and social impacts that make it far more than only a medical (physical and mental) risk (OECD 2020, WHO 2020). The COVID-19 virus has had immense socio-economic ramifications, posing significant economic risks (Kock et al. 2020). It has threatened international social cohesion and cohesion within societies themselves (Lancet 2020), with high levels of social disruption beyond what has been recorded since the last great world pandemic of Asian flu in 1968 (Lopes and McKay, 2020). 

There appears to be no appropriate preparation for a pandemic among countries regardless of their level of development.

Objectives / Key Research Questions

  • What impact has COVID-19 had on education across the system - from the pre- to the post-schooling sector?
  • What mitigation strategies have been put in place to keep the education sub-sectors functional? What are the achievements/challenges of such interventions?
  • In what way will the lifting of the lockdown need to be managed across educational institutions as learners return to the various education institutions? What auxiliary services need to be put in place to make this happen (eg school transport, socio-psycho support)
  • What training needs to be put in place for all role players engaged in the return-to-institutions to assist education recovery?
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