Overcoming the Digital Divide | E-platforms Bridge the COVID-19 Communication Gap in Malawi

Posted by Letswalo M Community Manager on 01 June 2021 11:45 AM SAST
Letswalo M Community Manager photo

COVID-19 brought with it a serious communication challenge. Lockdowns, restrictions on public gatherings and face-to-face meetings resulted in curbs on all educational activity, including FutureLife-Now! programmes.

In response to this challenge MIET AFRICA assisted the 10 FutureLife-Now! schools in Malawi by establishing an effective e-platform solution. Each school was equipped with solar panels, laptops, projectors and Wi-Fi access, allowing for online communication, meetings and workshops. This has enabled the schools to conduct virtual meetings with their own stakeholders, including learners, educators, parents, local and religious leaders, task team members and civil society organisations, as well as with one another.

One of the schools that has benefited from the installation of the e-platforms is Umbwi Secondary School in Dedza district. Dave Mchakama is the youth facilitator at the school. He prides himself on utilising the e-platform to provide civic education to students at the school.

The e-platforms have enabled the FutureLife-Now! programme in Malawi to conduct sexual reproductive health and rights (SRHR) meetings with mother groups, religious leaders as well as traditional leaders.

Sheik Yusuf Jim, a religious leader at Mbinzi Community Day Secondary School could not hide his excitement when he used the virtual meeting platform for the first time to discuss SRHR issues with his fellow religious and local leaders. “We have had challenges to converse with each other amid the COVID-19 restrictive measures; as such we have helplessly seen our young ones failing to access SRHR services because we cannot reach out to them with messages. It is like we have left them alone in these hard times. For the first time, I have used a laptop to talk to you,” he said.

“Can you also connect us to these young people so that we can provide them with advisories on how they can prevent unintended pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases?” he asked.

Plans are underway to pilot a telehealth model in both the schools and health facilities. Albert Saka, the chief officer in the Ministry of Education hailed the FutureLife-Now! programme for the innovative idea of connecting learners to health services. “The pilot telehealth model is a very welcome innovation in reaching out to the needs of our young people in schools.

“We have seen what a pandemic can do to the future of our young people. When approved, the telehealth model will indeed bridge the communication gap between students and public health services providers.”

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