Exploring the impact of COVID-19 in Learning in Africa

Youth As Researchers Knowledge Sharing: Exploring the impact of COVID-19 in Learning in Africa

From 5 to 7 October 2021, UNESCO organized a global virtual knowledge sharing session gathering together Youth As Researchers Teams from around the world, to allow showcasing and discussion on the findings of the youth-led researches they conducted under the YAR Initiatives.

The meeting involved Teams from Africa sharing about “learning and youth-led action in Africa” amid COVID-19; Team from Europe and North America, focusing on “Well-being, technology and rights in Europe and North America”; Team from Latin America and the Caribbean looking into “Learning, Well-being and use of technology in Latin America & the Caribbean”, as well as teams from Asia and the Pacific and Arab States, discussing on similar topics with a context specific approach.

Besides regional conversations on the findings or Teams research works, this session also involved global parallel thematic discussions on youth well-being, youth-led civic action, learning and education, youth and human rights and the use of technology by the youth.

In this process, UNESCO Harare and UNESCO Nairobi Offices teamed-up to support the setting up of a Youth As Researchers Team for Eastern and Southern Africa that conducted a study examining the impact of COVID-19 on learning in Africa.

The study adopted a methodological approach involving literature review and data collection through online survey, focused on 18-35 years old students and recent graduates from African secondary and tertiary institutions of learning, with about 520 respondents from 54 African countries; 74% from public learning institutions, 47% female and 48% male.

Responses from this continental study indicates that 65% of the students lost their jobs, 66% of the students’ academic performance declined. Besides, due to the closure of physical attendance of classes, most education institutions adopted online learning which was meant to enable continuous learning. However, this did not benefit many, as 76% of the participants, this is 3 out of 4 students did not have access to appropriate curriculum to facilitate a smooth transition to online learning and research. Although students had an opportunity to interact with their teachers, 62% reported that their teachers did not have sufficient knowledge required to effectively deliver online learning.


The study provided a series of recommendations to different stakeholders for remedial actions, including;

  • A call to governments in Africa to prioritize COVID-19 vaccination programs targeting teachers and students, especially in rural communities (35% of respondents were studying in urban areas, and 13% in rural communities), to make it possible for the resumption of physical lessons, especially in rural communities.
  • To prevent further inequality and exclusion in access to education in tertiary institutions, through enhanced collaboration with Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) for the provision of affordable internet services for students from low and middle income families.
  • A call to Institutions of higher learning in Africa to invest more in ICT infrastructure, including hiring IT staff to update their websites with the detailed content of all courses and programs offered, while also enhancing their collaboration with government ICT agencies and Digital media agencies to equip teachers and lecturers with digital skills.
  • A specific call to Ministries of Education to develop and disseminate learning frameworks that guide the conduct of the online lessons.

Through this interactive sessions, findings from the different youth teams mirrored youth perspectives and voices on fighting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on youth, and provided background information for an open dialogue among young researchers to identify priority policy recommendations and the steps needed to translate them into action, to be shared with Heads of State and Organization, Ministers of Youth and international organizations, among others, to be convened during the YAR Policy Conference scheduled in early 2022.

The Six (06) Members of the Youth As Researchers Team from Eastern and Southern Africa are: Mr Max Amanu, 27 years, (Uganda), Team Lead; Ms Aina Sylvania Andrianjakatina, 32 (Madagascar); Mr Onelio Daniel Macovela, 21 (Mozambique); Ms Adelina Sambala, 34 (Tanzania); Mr Washington Moses Mwale, 30 (Zimbabwe), and Mr Ambrose Bigaba, 29 (Uganda).


About the Youth As Researchers (YAR) initiative:

The Youth As Researchers (YAR) is a global youth-led initiative on COVID-19 that connects and engages with young people to conduct research on the impacts of COVID-19 on young people and the responses young people have implemented to tackle these.

This process is spearhead by UNESCO and the UNESCO Chairs at the National University of Ireland Galway and Penn State University, which lead a consortium of youth-led or youth-related actors to support the research through training, mentoring, and coordination, in collaboration with Make A Difference (MAD) Leadership Foundation, International Youth Media Summit, UNDP and the OHCHR.

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