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      Navigating Education in the Context of COVID-19 Lockdowns and School Closures: Challenges and Resilience Among Adolescent Girls and Young Women in South Africa

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          Abstract

          Gender related vulnerabilities and inequalities place female learners at high risk of school disengagement due to COVID-19 disruptions. Understanding the impacts of school closures and educational disruptions on female learners in South Africa is critical to inform appropriate, gender-sensitive policies, and programs, to mitigate further exacerbation of educational inequalities. We examined the effects that COVID-19 and lockdowns have had on the educational experiences of adolescent girls and young women (AGYW) aged 15–24, in six districts of South Africa characterized by high rates of HIV, teenage pregnancy and socio-economic hardship. Following a concurrent triangulation mixed-methods approach, we conducted a cross-sectional survey with 515 AGYW, and qualitative interviews with 50 AGYW. More than half of survey participants enrolled in education had been unable to continue with their studies. Factors associated with educational disruption included low socio-economic status, lack of cell phone access and household food insecurity. Qualitative narratives included challenges with online learning and studying at home in resource restricted settings, and insufficient support from schools and teachers. However, despite multiple barriers to continuing education, some AGYW demonstrated educational resilience, enabled by psychosocial and structural support, and resource access. Our findings lend support to an emerging evidence base showing that the closure of schools and tertiary institutions, combined with challenging home environments, and a lack of access to appropriate technology, has disproportionately impacted the most vulnerable AGYW, exacerbating pre-existing educational inequalities within the South African education system. Addressing structural barriers to educational equity, particularly in the pandemic context, including access of technology and the internet, is urgent.

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          COVID-19 mental health impact and responses in low-income and middle-income countries: reimagining global mental health

          Most of the global population live in low-income and middle-income countries (LMICs), which have historically received a small fraction of global resources for mental health. The COVID-19 pandemic has spread rapidly in many of these countries. This Review examines the mental health implications of the COVID-19 pandemic in LMICs in four parts. First, we review the emerging literature on the impact of the pandemic on mental health, which shows high rates of psychological distress and early warning signs of an increase in mental health disorders. Second, we assess the responses in different countries, noting the swift and diverse responses to address mental health in some countries, particularly through the development of national COVID-19 response plans for mental health services, implementation of WHO guidance, and deployment of digital platforms, signifying a welcome recognition of the salience of mental health. Third, we consider the opportunity that the pandemic presents to reimagine global mental health, especially through shifting the balance of power from high-income countries to LMICs and from narrow biomedical approaches to community-oriented psychosocial perspectives, in setting priorities for interventions and research. Finally, we present a vision for the concept of building back better the mental health systems in LMICs with a focus on key strategies; notably, fully integrating mental health in plans for universal health coverage, enhancing access to psychosocial interventions through task sharing, leveraging digital technologies for various mental health tasks, eliminating coercion in mental health care, and addressing the needs of neglected populations, such as children and people with substance use disorders. Our recommendations are relevant for the mental health of populations and functioning of health systems in not only LMICs but also high-income countries impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, with wide disparities in quality of and access to mental health care.
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            Online learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Students perspectives

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              COVID-19 and the Digital Transformation of Education: What Are We Learning on 4IR in South Africa?

              The study sought to assess the influence of the COVID-19 pandemic in motivating digital transformation in the education sector in South Africa. The study was premised on the fact that learning in South Africa and the rest of the world came to a standstill due to the lockdown necessitated by COVID-19. To assess the impact, the study tracked the rate at which the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) tools were used by various institutions during the COVID-19 lockdown. Data were obtained from secondary sources. The findings are that, in South Africa, during the lockdown, a variety of 4IR tools were unleashed from primary education to higher and tertiary education where educational activities switched to remote (online) learning. These observations reflect that South Africa generally has some pockets of excellence to drive the education sector into the 4IR, which has the potential to increase access. Access to education, particularly at a higher education level, has always been a challenge due to a limited number of spaces available. Much as this pandemic has brought with it massive human suffering across the globe, it has presented an opportunity to assess successes and failures of deployed technologies, costs associated with them, and scaling these technologies to improve access.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Frontiers in Education
                Front. Educ.
                Frontiers Media SA
                2504-284X
                March 7 2022
                March 7 2022
                : 7
                Article
                10.3389/feduc.2022.856610
                6e5ec5ad-4ea6-4a65-ae22-d72c24af7f83
                © 2022

                Free to read

                https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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