Education unions responding to COVID-19

published 30 July 2020 updated 30 July 2020


The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is experienced in most countries across the globe. The spread of this virus has affected various sectors, mainly health, education, transport, and many others.

According to WHO, as of 26 July 2020, the cumulative cases of Covid-19 from 47 African countries have reached 692,678 with 11,667 reported deaths. South Africa had the highest numbers of reported cases (445, 433) with 6,769 deaths followed by Egypt (92,062 cases), Nigeria (40,532), Ghana (32, 969) and Algeria (27,357). Read more here

Despite the continued spread of the virus in Africa, many countries have started reopening schools, starting with examination classes. For example, in Benin, examination classes reopened on 11th May 2020 and students wrote their National Primary Examination ( NPSE) and the Basic Education Certificate Examination ( BECE) on 6th and 12th July 2020, respectively. The other levels will reopen in August as online teaching is ongoing for the university students.

In Ghana, for instance, the West African Senior Secondary Certificate Examination ( WASSCE) started on 20th July 2020. In addition, in some countries, there is overcrowding of students in the classroom, thus making social distancing impossible to observe.

Reports from several EI member organisations have indicated that not enough measures have been taken to ensure the health, safety and well-being of educators and students. Teachers’ working conditions have also been affected. In many instances, teachers in some private schools have not had their salaries paid for months, especially during the lockdown.  The Universities Academic Staff Union ( UASU) in Kenya sued university leaders for reducing the salaries of 877 lectures.

In Zimbabwe, trade unions took the Government to court over school re-opening without providing  preventive  and precautionary measures  including adequate and safe transport, lack of logistics, health services, hand sanitizers and face masks.

Education unions across Africa continue to sensitize their members, students, and parents about the need for such safety measures as face masks, observance of social distancing, usage of hand sanitizers and washing of hands to avoid contracting the virus.

Following a Webinar held on the 18th May 2020 with EI member organisations from Africa on Covid-19 and Schools’ Reopening in Africa, the following recommendations were made to the African governments:

  • provide measures that can reduce the spread of the virus in schools and other education institutions,
  • assist students and teachers with health and psychological services, provision of clean water, facemasks, hand sanitizers and soap,
  • engage in social and policy dialogue with education unions before making decisions that are related to school closures and reopening, learners, educators, and education support personnel.