Pandemic Perspective: Tatenda Mafodya On Challenges Of Distance Teaching When Internet Access Is A Luxury

Tatenda Mafodya was struggling to remember when lockdown began in South Africa. “It’s been 21, no wait, 27 days.”

An understandable slip. Time plays by different rules these days. Personal and work life blur.

Teachers have faced their own challenges in the wake of COVID-19. For over 90% of the world’s student population, school is closed. Of the approximately 1.5 billion students impacted, 320 of them attend Streetlight Schools: Jeppe Park in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This is the school led by Tatenda, alongside 18 teachers, dedicated to providing high-quality learning to underserved communities in South Africa. When I talked to Tatenda last week to understand these challenges, she was, like most of us, working from home, juggling phone calls and meetings while her two daughters (ages 7 and 2) played in the background.

“When the lockdown was first announced, we wanted to give physical packets for the students because it is an underserved community, some of the parents don’t have data, they don’t have smartphones,” Tatenda shared. “But on the day we were printing the physical packets, there was an electricity outage. We could only print and hand out a few to the parents.”