Global Education Challenges and Strategies during pandemics (Part I)  

Global Action Programme (GAP)

The Global Action Programme (GAP) on Education for Sustainable Development was adapted by the United Nations Education and Scientific Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) for the period 2015 through 2019. This programme was known as the GAP 2015-2019. The overarching idea was to ensure significant improvement in global education while contributing meaningfully to the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In November 2019, UNESCO organised its 40th General Conference on global education. The conference resulted in the adaption of the new Global Framework on Education for Sustainable Development from 2020 through 2030.

This initiative was dubbed ESD for 2030; and sought to contribute to the achievement of the seventeen (17) Sustainable Development Goals by strengthening Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) through the development of sustainable and just global community. After the unfortunate wind of COVID-19 had blown away and the dusts had settled, UNESCO intended to host a global conference on education for sustainable development. The conference at issue was intended to highlight the challenges arising from COVID-19; and to emphasise the indispensable role of ESD in the successful implementation of policies and achievement of the seventeen SDGs. Finally, the conference was expected to strengthen education for sustainable development in policy and practice.

UNESCO sought to develop a common framework that would ensure the integration of its Education for Sustainable Development and the seventeen SDGs into “policies, learning environments, capacity building of educators, empowerment and mobilisation of youth, and local level action” (Diop and Jain, 2020, para. 7). Through Education for Sustainable Development, UNESCO sought to internalise the unintended impact of an individual’s actions and behaviour on others. The ESD led to the introduction of novel subjects such as environmental sustainability and gender studies. Systems of education throughout the world are putting the necessary measures in place to impart knowledge of the foregoing subjects to students at the early stages of their academic development.

The underlying objective of the Education for Sustainable Development agenda is to draw on multidimensional, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary approaches to translate academic concepts into real-life situations and challenges that are relatable; and to find solutions to the identified challenges. Some academic areas of focus under the ESD are communication, leadership, problem-solving and critical thinking skills. The foregoing courses are often ignored in the curricula of many schools in many jurisdictions; and even when they are included, little attention is paid to them. However, findings from the current research suggested UNESCO’s affirmation of the courses’ importance through the Education for Sustainable Development; and the urgent need for their application led to improvements in the analytical prowess and critical thinking skills of students; and helped in addressing teething challenges facing the global community including peace building, gender bias, socio-economic inequality and climate change, among others.

The decision to review and improve on existing curricula for schools through the Education for Sustainable Development led to the development of virtues such as compassion and empathy. Further, it resulted in better grades for learners; and created tremendous opportunities for academic and professional development of students in various jurisdictions around the world. Although a lot remains to be done in this area, the success story thus far encouraged UNESCO to engage member countries, policy makers, and academic institutions to scale up their implementation efforts. It is believed rigorous pursuit of this initiative would help reduce the deficit identified in the implementation of the Education for Sustainable Development as a strong enabler for the achievement of all the seventeen Sustainable Development Goals. Thus, the focus of ESD is not limited to education; it is extended to include broader socio-economic challenges. The latter could be achieved with relative ease if the former results in the development of efficient, effective and productive human capital for the local and global economies.

Sustainable Development Goal four (4) of the United Nations stresses the need for inclusive quality education for all by 2030. Available statistics from UNESCO (as cited in Giannini and Albrectsen, 2020) revealed as of 31st March, 2020 over 1.54 billion learners at various levels of education across the globe (pre-primary through secondary levels; and tertiary level) were severely impacted by COVID-19. Included in this number were about 743 million girls. The number of school closures as a result of the pandemic affected over 89% of the total learners’ population across the globe.

The research findings revealed more than 111 million of the affected 743 million girls lived in least developed countries where access to basic and higher levels of education was fundamentally a struggle. Some of the least developed economies with the anecdote education challenges include South Sudan, Niger and Mali. The challenges were borne out of national economic vulnerabilities, limited priority for education, extreme poverty; and gender disparity in education owing largely to religious and traditional beliefs. Globally, these countries have some of the lowest enrolment and completion rates for girl-child education; and COVID-19 exacerbated the crisis; more than four million girls were out of school following school closures.

Effect of the Ebola pandemic on adolescent girls in some communities in Sierra Leone was devastating: pregnancies among adolescents increased up to 65%. A major reason for the increase was lack of protection outside the school environment (Giannini and Albrectsen, 2020). Findings from other studies (as cited in Giannini and Albrectsen, 2020) revealed an increase in transactional sex as vulnerable girls and their respective families struggled to make “two basic ends meet” during the Ebola outbreak.

Some homes lost their “breadwinners” from the Ebola pandemic; and this destroyed the basic source of livelihood. To mitigate the “economic shortfalls,” many families decided to give the hands of their adolescent girls in marriage. This was expected to reduce the financial burden on families and to provide protection for the adolescent girls against sexual exploitation. Physical and sexual abuse among adolescent girls by older men and their peers surged in countries adversely impacted by the Ebola outbreaks. The abuse occurred when these girls were left at home and unsupervised by their parents or guardians.

Identified Gaps in Educational Service Delivery

The devastating nature of the Coronavirus pandemic revealed obvious gaps in countries and territories’ mapped-out programmes and activities for education. Notable among these gaps was inequality in access to education. Many countries were found to be grappling with equal access by both privileged and under-privileged learners to technological learning platforms developed and implemented at the initial and peak stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic exposed the existing gap between learners in urban and rural areas; between privileged and under-privileged learners; and unpreparedness of many countries to bridge those gaps at the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Most learners from economically less-endowed homes and communities had difficulties accessing electricity supply, computers, the Internet; and other technological devices required to facilitate their active participation in distance and online learning during the pandemic period. In France, about 5% of the total learning population were found to have no access to computers or Internet. Though many countries were unprepared, their responsiveness was encouraging. As noted earlier, many countries including China, France, the United States, Cyprus, Egypt, among others, rose to the occasion; they ensured learners in both deprived and urban communities had access to continuous education.

To assure equity and equal learning opportunities, schools in Washington State in the United States were encouraged to provide online learning services on condition that no learner would be left behind. The Portuguese government noted the challenges of inequitable access to online learning services among learners in the country: some learners had no access to computers and Internet. To address these challenges, working sheets were delivered to learners in their respective homes through the post office. The initiative was a partnership between the Portuguese government and the post office. The French government ensured the less-privileged learners (constituting about 5% of total learners) were provided with printed assignments and devices required for Internet connectivity and active participation in distance and online learning platforms during school closures occasioned by COVID-19.

The Chinese government subsidised telecommunication and mobile data package for all students; and provided computers for learners from economically less-endowed homes and families. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Arab Emirates government established a hotline for learners and instructors, so technical assistance could be provided when they encountered challenges in the use of distance and online learning platforms. This measure was meant primarily to minimise possible disruptions in the learning process. In the Republic of Korea, France, and Japan, among other countries, few schools remained open during the pandemic period, so learners who could not be cared for at home ostensibly due to the nature of their parents’ or guardians’ professions could be accommodated.

Thailand and Japan made special arrangements which allowed instructors (when the respective economies were not under lockdowns) to pay regular visits to learners, their families and caregivers. The visits allowed instructors to monitor the progress and well-being of learners; and to interact with parents and caregivers to advise same on how to facilitate and promote effective learning of their wards at home. Many learners perceived the physical learning environment as a safe haven for promotion and maintenance of social contacts. Thus, prolonged school closures were believed to undermine this social cohesiveness.

In Thailand, Ghana, and many other countries, communications apps such as WhatsApp were employed to ensure constant interaction between instructors and learners during the lockdowns and school closures. This limited the extent of social isolation and increased the psychological feeling of social inclusion and belonging among learners. In addition to the foregoing, special arrangements by countries such as the United States, China, Spain and Japan allowed for the creation of 24-hour hotline, monitored calls, and provided psychological assistance for those in need, so they could steer clear of any feeling of social isolation.

Economic Cost and Teenage Pregnancies

In most African and global economies including Ghana, private educational institutions at various levels derive their revenues from tuition fees. This enables them to meet recurring expenses including payment of staff salaries. Further, tuition fees enable them to mobilise funds for expansionary projects; and to pay off outstanding loans, among other significant financial obligations. Thus, prolonged school closures tended to affect the financial strength of private educational institutions; and the ability to honour their financial obligations to key stakeholders including instructors and other staff.

The estimated financial loss from the recent school closures occasioned by COVID-19 to private institutions in Ghana was monumental. As a result, proprietors of most private institutions in Ghana had to resort to the government for a financial bailout to meet the financial needs of their respective instructors. These private institutions were expected to benefit from funds released by the government of Ghana (GH¢600 million) through the National Board for Small Scale Industries (NBSSI) to assist small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs). A news bulletin on BBC on Tuesday, 2nd June, 2020 disclosed the colossal amount lost from revenue to tertiary institutions in the United Kingdom (US$18 billion) and United States (US$45 billion).

The estimated revenue lost to tertiary institutions in the United States was about 2.5 times the revenue lost to tertiary institutions in the United Kingdom during the period. Further statistics shared by the BBC revealed about 5% of all tertiary level learners in the United States were enrolled online while online students constituted about 20% of all tertiary level learners in the United Kingdom. The BBC report was consistent with Psacharopoulos et al. who found mass school closures could have development implications for learners; and business implications for instructors and owners of private academic institutions.

One of the greatest challenges envisioned by some educationists during the prolonged school closures was parents’ and other stakeholders’ inability to provide the needed protection for female adolescent learners against early pregnancies. In Ghana, about six Junior High School female learners and five female learners at the Senior High School levels were reported pregnant during the writing of their respective terminal examinations organised by the West African Examinations Council during 2020. Statistics released by the Ghana Education Service (GES) (as cited in Opera News, 2020) showed a total of six hundred and seventy-six (676) pregnancy cases were recorded among learners between March 2020 and September 2020 in the Volta Region, one of the sixteen (16) regions in Ghana.

The pregnancies were recorded among learners at the primary (176), JHS (325) and SHS (175) levels; while two hundred and eighty-five (285) nursing mothers were identified to have resumed classes in their respective schools during the period. Most of these nursing mothers were at the Junior High School and Senior High School levels. The foregoing reports confirmed earlier studies by UNESCO (2020a&c) and Giannini and Albrectsen (2020) which found prolonged school closures were a conduit for early and teenage pregnancies among learners at their adolescent stage.

Re-opening of Schools

The decision to re-open schools was found to be topical in some jurisdictions across the globe. Madam Stefania Giannini, the UNESCO Assistant Director-General for Education (as cited in UNESCO, 2020b), believed decisions related to schools’ re-openings formed part of the most sensitive issues on today’s political agenda; and that, re-opening decisions were integrally predicated on specific contexts in each country and territory; and the extent to which the Coronavirus pandemic evolved. Madam Giannini (as cited in UNESCO, 2020b) affirmed the need for countries itching to re-open their respective schools to develop and build the trust of learners; and put the necessary remedial measures in place to protect the health of learners, and their well-being.

During the year 2020, the World Bank, World Food Programme (WFP), United Nations International Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and UNESCO presented a framework for schools that were preparing to re-open. The framework was intended to provide a roadmap for authorities at the national and local levels in decision-making. Further, the framework was expected to facilitate the authorities’ decisions on how, why and when schools should be re-opened.

On 29th April, 2020, UNESCO convened a virtual ad-hoc meeting of education ministers around the world. The meeting afforded global education ministers the opportunity to share their school closure experiences and re-opening strategies and measures.

As of 30th April, 2020 over seventy-one (71) countries had announced re-opening dates for schools. This number included fifty-two (52) countries with already determined re-opening dates during the academic year; twelve countries that had already re-opened their respective schools; and seven (7) countries that had postponed their respective re-opening dates to the following academic year. Although some countries were considering re-opening their respective schools, there was a common consensus on the planning process: school re-opening would be carried out in phases with priority given to remedial learning, health; and safety of learners, instructors, and administrative staff.

The research revealed more than one hundred and twenty-eight (128) countries were yet to announce their respective re-opening dates as at 30th April, 2020. In percentage terms, the number of countries with unconfirmed schools re-opening dates was approximately 64.32% ((128 countries ÷ 199 countries) x 100% = 0.643216 x 100% = 64.3216 = 64.32%). This was significantly higher than the number of countries with confirmed dates (35.68%). Specifically, the total number of countries that had already re-opened and the number that was set to re-open during 2020 academic year were 64 (52 + 12 = 64). This represented about 32.16% ((64 countries ÷ 199 countries) x 100% = 0.321608 x 100% = 32.1608 = 32.16%) of the total number of countries (199) sampled; and about half the total number of countries (64.32%) with confirmed dates.

At the UNESCO meeting held on the afore-mentioned date, there was a consensus among education ministers for progressive re-opening of schools; and maintenance of distance and online learning until all learners returned to school. Participants were unanimous on the need for re-opening decisions to be informed and guided by the evolution of the Coronavirus pandemic. This was to avoid the possibility of second wave of the pandemic in any country or territory across the globe.

Extant research (Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, 2010; Hine, 2010; Samanlioglu and Bilge, 2016; Saunders-Hastings and Krewski, 2016) revealed the second wave of pandemic eruption in most countries that eschewed due diligence in making decisions related to school re-openings in recent years. Participants at the UNESCO meeting believed the various individual and collective innovations announced and implemented by countries during the school closures would be influential in andragogical and pedagogical practices when schools re-opened globally.

In addition to online platforms, learning contents were delivered through television and other media in many countries including Rwanda, Senegal, Argentina, Costa Rica, Peru, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Islamic Republic of Iran, China, Republic of Korea, Vietnam, Thailand, France, Croatia and Ghana, among others. In Thailand, Costa Rica, and the Islamic Republic of Iran, the levels of communication between instructors and learners were maintained and enhanced through the use of existing apps.

To ensure the success of distance learning programmes in the United Arab Emirates during the COVID-19 pandemic, government agencies launched communication strategies on distance education for all key stakeholders. These included school administrators, instructors, learners, and parents. Saudi Arabia relied on her official Twitter account for regular dissemination of valuable information on online learning to targeted groups (Chang & Yano, 2020). The following section presents strategies adapted by countries in various regions across the globe to re-open their respective academic institutions while mitigating risks and unwanted spill-overs.

Re-opening Strategies in Africa

Some analysts noted the globe and especially, Africa’s inability to remain in the present predicament occasioned by COVID-19 forever. It was therefore imperative to identify and institute measures that would assure learners’ return to their respective classrooms within a reasonable period. However, key stakeholders such as the parent-teacher associations, school management committees, teachers’ and some students’ unions raised concerns about timely re-opening of schools since challenges associated with strict adherence to physical and social distancing rules could put the lives of learners, instructors; and other academic staff at risk (All Africa, n.d.).

The research revealed, remedial measures put in place by countries and territories throughout the world during the COVID-19 period were intended to duck, to the extent possible, any disruption in academic learning. As of 24th March, 2020, continuous learning through distance and online or Internet platforms was functional in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Egypt, Cyprus, France, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Croatia, China, Republic of Korea, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Japan and Saudi Arabia. The mode of adaption and implementation in the respective countries was contingent on the extent of technological development (Chang & Yano, 2020).

Later, these platforms were adapted for implementation in countries such as Ghana. In the latter, a special television channel (Ghana Learning) was introduced by the State broadcaster, Ghana Broadcasting Corporation, to provide learning platforms for learners at the Junior High School (JHS) and Senior High School (SHS) levels. Tertiary institutions activated their online portals; while those deficient in online teaching and learning platforms were compelled to establish same within short periods.

In Ghana, the decision to re-open schools was premised on Ghana Education Service’s ability to provide scientific and published data which were convincing. These empirical proofs required the consensus and support of key stakeholders, including parents. Indeed, strict adherence to the necessary protocols could prevent further spread of COVID-19 on the continent (All Africa, n.d.).

On 31st May, 2020, Ghana’s current President announced measures to ease some of the restrictions imposed on the economy following the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. These included re-opening of schools for final year learners in tertiary institutions; and final year students at the JHS and SHS levels preparing for the 2020 terminal examinations organised by the West Africa Examination Council (WAEC). Later announcements affirmed re-opening of schools for other levels of JHS and SHS learners. However, school re-openings for learners at the primary level were postponed to January 2021. The restrictions were lifted amidst stringent calls for the observation and implementation of physical and social distancing rules to assure containment; and to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ghana’s approach to school re-openings seemed to have been successful; there were no major adverse findings relative to spread of the virus in many parts of the country although few escalated cases were recorded in some senior high schools at the outset of the re-openings. Available data from Worldometer (2020b) revealed as of 18th October, 2020, Ghana had recorded the following statistics on COVID-19: total number of reported cases (47,232), deaths (310), recoveries (46,578), active cases (344), and critical cases (9). The data showed about 98.6% recovery rate in Ghana during the period (Ghana Health Service, 2020).

The COVID-19 pandemic had spread to 215 countries and territories across the globe; and to 2 international conveyances during the period. In Ghana, some tertiary institutions organised virtual graduation ceremonies for learners who had successfully completed their respective academic programmes and had met graduation requirements of their respective academic faculties.

On 15th March, 2020, all tertiary institutions in Kenya were ordered to close down to prevent further spread of the COVID-19 outbreak in the country. This was in tandem with similar decisions in many other African countries; and decisions taken in countries and territories in other regions across the globe. However, in early July 2020, Kenya announced her decision to phase-out re-opening of schools across the country. The re-openings were to commence with tertiary institutions in September 2020 under strict guidelines. It was incumbent on university authorities to consider staggering of their respective academic studies.

The latter was intended to assure compliance with physical and social distancing rules in key areas such as lecture halls, dining halls; and halls of residence to complement the Health Ministry’s efforts at insuring the health and safety of learners; while minimising and preventing further spread of the virus in the country. Considerations for re-opening of tertiary institutions for face-to-face interactive sessions were to be on a case-by-case basis; and subject to compliance with the necessary COVID-19 protocols recommended by the Health Ministry (Nganga, 2020).

However, prior to September 2020, tertiary institutions in Kenya were expected to continue with their respective online teaching and learning programmes; while the portentous COVID-19 was observed in terms of risk for further spread. A statement issued by Professor George Magoha, Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Education (as cited in Nganga, 2020), noted tertiary institutions that failed to comply with the COVID-19 protocols after re-opening risked closure. Professor Magoha further stated the implementation of prior decisions on re-opening of educational institutions arrived at with key stakeholders would be contingent on COVID-19 updates provided by the Health Ministry, including increased knowledge and prevailing circumstances of the pandemic.

Available projections indicated the total number of reported COVID-19 cases in Kenya were expected to peak in August and September 2020. As of 18th October, 2020 the respective total numbers of reported and recovered cases in Kenya were 44,196 and 31,752. The total number of reported cases (44,196) was a significant (about 435.71%) increase over the 8,250 confirmed cases recorded as at 7th July, 2020. Authorities in Kenya announced the postponement of re-opening date for basic institutions from September 2020 to January 2021. This was consistent with the academic decision arrived at and announced by authorities in Ghana on re-opening of primary schools across the country.

As of 25th June, 2020 no date had been set for re-opening of schools, including tertiary institutions in Nigeria. Earlier, on 13th June, 2020 a virtual meeting was held between the Federal Minister of Education, Professor Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba and heads of tertiary institutions in Nigeria. The virtual meeting afforded Professor Nwajiuba the opportunity to outline the needed measures to be taken by tertiary institutions prior to their re-opening. The COVID-19 protocols outlined by Professor Nwajiuba included the need for the availability of body disinfectants, body temperature checks; and hand washing detergents and equipment at various points of entry into major facilities of each tertiary institution.

These facilities included offices, lecture halls, hostels and main gates. The measures included decontamination of the entire premises of each tertiary institution; stringent efforts to maintain hygiene at all times while observing physical and social distancing rules in lecture halls and at other meeting venues. Meanwhile, all tertiary institutions were to remain closed until further notice. Early announcement on the closures of all tertiary institutions in the country was made on 23rd March, 2020. A section of Nigerians supported the Federal government’s decision to postpone re-opening of schools citing potential further outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rather, proponents called for the institutionalisation of optimal health and safety conditions in various academic institutions before re-opening was considered. This initiative was necessary to mitigate rising numbers of reported COVID-19 cases in the country (Fatunde, 2020).

Nationwide school closures in Zambia were announced on 20th March, 2020. In June 2020, the Zambian government served a month’s notice to tertiary institutions in the country to plan and prepare for re-opening, which was to be carried out in phases. The Zambian Education Minister, Dr. Brian Mushimba, noted COVID-19 may linger on for an extended period. Therefore, it behoved the people of Zambia to be psychologically conditioned to embrace the new normal trend occasioned by COVID-19 in many countries and territories across the globe. The Zambian government’s decision to re-open tertiary institutions in phases, starting from 1st July, 2020 was received with mixed reactions.

Many were those who doubted the successful outcome of the initiative; they believed the decision to re-open was too early; and that, the containment measures in tertiary institutions and at the national level may be defeated by the “sudden” re-opening of tertiary institutions during the period. The foregoing assertion was corroborated by Dr. Kelvin Mambwe, General Secretary of the Lecturers and Researchers’ Union at the University of Zambia when he bemoaned the poor state of facilities, including inadequate water supply, poor sanitation; and accommodation challenges.

The relatively large class sizes and congestions at the halls of residence raised concern about the successful implementation of the social distancing rules. Similar announcement by the Zambian President, Mr. Edgar Lungu, affirmed re-opening of physical classes on 1st June, 2020. He stressed the need for re-openings to be prioritised with final year learners preparing for their examinations resuming classes first (Tonga, 2020).

To ensure efficient, effective and uninterrupted academic service delivery during the COVID-19 period, the Zambian government, through the Higher Education Ministry, recognised online learning activities as an integral part of the learning process for graduating learners and others at the tertiary level. However, its successful implementation was hampered by erratic power supply and weak Internet service in the country. Graduating ceremonies for learners at the tertiary level were expected to be organised virtually; while those who paid tuition for on-site learning, but were denied due to the COVID-19 outbreak would enjoy refund. Authorities in tertiary institutions announced their preparedness to ease lockdown restrictions in compliance with guidelines provided by the Higher Education Ministry (Tonga, 2020).

South Africa remained the epicentre of the COVID-19 outbreak in Africa prior and during the research period. The surge in total number of reported cases coupled with high case fatality rate raised concerns within and without about the country’s ability to be successful in her containment efforts. This was especially so, when re-opening of schools was considered and implemented amidst increasing number of reported cases and deaths. The country considered re-opening schools in phases; learners in Grades R, 6 and 11 were scheduled to re-open on 6th July, 2020.

During the period, provinces that were not ready to accommodate Grade R learners were tasked to present strategic and realisable plans which would ensure their re-incorporation into the school system at a later date. Schools that could not make the necessary arrangements to accommodate Grade R learners were given up to the end of July 2020 to ensure their re-incorporation. Prior to the re-opening of schools for learners in the foregoing Grades, learners in Grades 7 and 12 were scheduled; and re-opened on 8th June, 2020. Thus, the latter were scheduled to re-open before the former. However, after the re-opening on 8th June, 2020 about 2,740 instructors; and 1,260 learners in 7th and 12th Grades were reported infected by COVID-19. Statistically, the number of instructors infected (2,740) represented about 0.62% of the estimated total instructors’ population of 440,000 at the basic education level. The report noted the number of infected learners (1,260) constituted about 0.01% of all learners in the 7th and 12th Grades (Xinhua, 2020).

The preceding formed part of the country’s phase one re-opening arrangements. In all, 25,762 schools were re-opened. However, the increase in transmission among instructors and learners impelled the re-closure of 968 schools during the period. The escalation in outbreaks resulted in some fatalities: three learners, eleven instructors; and four non-teaching staff were confirmed dead through COVID-19 during the period. South Africa’s experience confirmed extant research which affirmed countries’ decision to re-open schools at set dates without due recourse to both pharmaceutical and non-pharmaceutical interventions could escalate; rather than contain and minimise spread of the virus.

To stem the growing tide of COVID-19, South Africa’s Basic Education Minister, Madam Angie Motshekga, stressed the need for strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocols; she emphasised the need for adherence to the COVID-19 protocols to be the responsibility of all and sundry; while social distancing, health and safety protocols were to be duly observed in all academic institutions to enhance containment; and to prevent further spread of the virus (Xinhua, 2020). The study revealed although the respective ratios of infection for instructors (0.62%) and learners (0.01%) were considered low, the real impact on human lives was significant as evidenced in the total number of reported deaths (17 deaths) during the period.

All the twenty-seven public tertiary institutions (universities) in South Africa were affected by the outbreak. The COVID-19 pandemic affirmed the need for the various institutions of higher learning across the country to improve on their respective technological infrastructure to ensure effective online tuition. A blend of onsite and online learning was identified as the “best way” to assure uninterrupted and successful academic year (Czerniewicz, 2020). South Africa’s COVID-19 challenges could be described as enormous.

As of 21st October, 2020 the total number of reported COVID-19 cases stood at 706,304 with 639,568 recoveries. The total number of deaths was estimated at 18,656. The foregoing data implied South Africa ranked first in Africa and twelfth among 215 countries and territories and 2 international conveyances during the period. The foregoing statistics showed significant increases over the respective reported cases (205,721), deaths (3,310), and recoveries (97,848) recorded early on 7th July, 2020. Respectively, South Africa ranked fifteenth and first globally and in Africa during the period (Worldometer, 2020b).

Author’s Note

The above write-up was extracted from an earlier publication titled: “Impact of the Coronavirus Pandemic on Global Education” by Ashley (2022) in the International Journal of Business and Management.

Ebenezer ASHLEY (PhD)

The writer is a Chartered Economist/Business Consultant.

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