Help in a time of crisis: pandemic problems

Nigeria is in the midst of a recession. Poverty, unemployment and hunger define daily life at the moment and the Amina Zwindila Foundation School’s children and their families have been severely affected.  If there were no nutrition program on offer at the school, the children would go hungry; without the school well, there would be no clean water to drink. The solar well was built in 2017 by the Greenfinity Foundation and has made the necessary hygiene measures possible for the school. Together with our project partner, we talked to Amina Zwindila, the founder and Director of the school, at the beginning of March about the consequences of the Corona crisis, the nutrition program financed by the Child and Family Foundation, and the hygiene measures in place at the school. 

Amina, how were the months directly following the outbreak of the Corona Pandemic?

It was terrible. Some of our students' parents are day labourers, and thus rely on their daily income to feed their families. Even before the outbreak of the pandemic, many of them were struggling to provide themselves and their children with basic necessities. Corona has exacerbated this situation. Lockdowns and curfews meant that many people here had no income at all for the first few weeks following the outbreak of the pandemic, and so they didn’t even have enough money to buy food. This quickly led to a famine, which has also affected many of our students unfortunately.


How can the school support the children’s families?

Thank goodness that we are lucky enough to have a nutrition program running at our school. This is funded by the Child & Family Foundation. This meant, at the very least, that we were able to support the children and their families by providing them with basic food during the lockdown. Since classes have been allowed to resume, we have been providing students with a daily hot meal at the school, just as we did before Corona. For many, this is often the only food they receive all day. Prices here have risen sharply in recent months and, at the same time, those families who were already poor before Corona have become even poorer. It is a catastrophe and it pains me to watch so many of our pupils go hungry at home every day.

How were the essential food items distributed to the families during the lockdown?

We distributed the aid packages from the nutrition program to the parents in the school grounds. By doing this, we killed two birds with one stone, because we were able to give the parents learning materials and exercises for the students to take home at the same time. We set up appointments with parents to allow them to pick up materials for their children as well as food rations. By scheduling appointments, we were able to make sure that there were never too many people at the school at any one time. This made it easy for both teachers and parents to keep their distance and no one had to worry about contracting the Corona Virus at school.


In September, the face-to-face classes started again. Which safety and hygiene measures are in place at the school?

Unfortunately, it's not possible for the children and teachers to observe a safe distance during lessons, as our classrooms are simple not big enough for that, but every adult who enters the school campus is required to wear a mask. Furthermore, we are focussing are efforts on regular handwashing. Thank goodness that we have our own solar well at the school and, without it, we wouldn't be able to implement these safety measures. The well which the Greenfinity Foundation built for us in 2017 is a true blessing and I really don't know what we would do without it. It was in constant use even before the outbreak of the pandemic, as many of the students do not have clean, running drinking water at home and the school well is the only way for them to quench their thirstwhen they arrive at school. In recent months, however, the school’s water needs have increased greatly due to the strict hygiene measures.


Is there anything in particular that worries you at the moment?

There are many problems that have kept me up at night as the main person in charge of the school since this crisis began, however,the biggest one at the moment is a leak in the school well's tank, which we only discovered recently. We were able to temporarily fix the problem by sealing the tank, but I don't know how long the seal will hold. At the moment, all of us at the school are very worried because we don't have enough funds to have the tank professionally repaired or replaced if necessary.

Nigeria School

Amina Zwindila, Project manager