COVID 19 and Conservation: The story of the Science Youths Program
Updated: Apr 21
We can ensure a brighter future by teaching and assisting young scientists in making informed decisions and developing soft skills. Work is plenty, but hands are few, as the saying goes. There is a clear need to ensure that a large number of young people are recruited into the conservation sector, which is currently understaffed.
Tapiwa Prosper Chimbadzwa
The world today is battling two of the century’s major problems that is COVID 19 and the climate change calamity. The duo has ushered in drastic changes to people’s livelihoods and in worst cases claimed lives. The negative impacts caused by the disease COVID19 has been felt in all walks of life and the conservation science industry has not been spared. People lost jobs, projects has been stalled and lockdowns were put in place as a measure to prevent the spread of the deadly COVID 19 Virus. During these trying times, many lost hope but a handful remained vigilant and ready to initiate change. They stood as the torch bearers assuring the world that there is light at the end of every tunnel. Today we share the story of aspiring Dr Annabel Banda and her Science Youths Program.
Dr Annabel Banda
Annabel Banda holds Bachelor of Science Honors Degree in Biology (UZ), Master of Science in Tropical Entomology (UZ), and currently pursuing a Doctor of Philosophy in Environment and Ecology (CUT). She has been a teacher for 5 years at Swazi High School and now she is a lecturer at Gwanda State University, Matabeleland South, Zimbabwe. Coming from a rural background where she had to go an extra mile to acquire basic education, she committed herself into building young people for a better future. She has overcome numerous obstacles to get to where she is now, including being a woman in a male-dominated sector and struggling to make ends meet. After facing such difficulties, she understood that young people in the sciences require advice and a shoulder to cry on during the COVID 19 pandemic, which led to the creation of the Science Youths Program. Currently, the program is in its infancy and is run by the Zimbabwe Young Academy of Science's Future Science Leaders Program. Its main goal is to mentor future science leaders by allowing scientists to gain soft skills that they can apply later in their jobs.
How it Started
This program was formed because it was realized that some science students might be lost as a result of the covid-19 pandemic's effects. Annabel was devastated by the pandemic's mental and physical effects, driving her to contact the young scientist as a means of providing emotional support and transferring soft skills, which she lacked when she was in a similar circumstance. The initiative began on June 29, 2021, using the WhatsApp platform. In her words she said that “I believed it was too late; most science students had given up hope, especially with the emergence of inconsistent schools. I haven't given up on them; science youths require our help, and we must be inclusive in our approaches to carter for the needs of both female and male students’’.
Teaching at a mixed-gender school, I've discovered that guys, too, want that push. Dr. Annabel is optimistic that this program will have a positive impact on the scientific community. Virtual WhatsApp conversations, webinars, and physical skill exchange sessions are just a few of the program's highlights. Physical sessions are currently hampered by a lack of funding and the pandemic. Pandemics, on the other hand, are here to stay, thus it's critical that we devise measures to ensure that our youth's performance is unaffected by their effects. Let us equip the young of today with the tools they will need in the future
As a means of demonstrating the need for this program, here are some COVID19 stories from young and aspiring scientists.
Young Scientists Stories
COVID19 had a significant impact on our learning. We couldn't go to school because of the lockdown, which caused delays in learning and put us behind schedule. To make up, some of us had to pay for extra classes, which not everyone could afford, making learning difficult. Students couldn't help each other because of social distancing rule, especially those who didn't have access to smart phones.
Due to the virus, the government-imposed lockdown in order to combat the virus, which prevented my father from going to work. My father is the pillar of the family, in fact, he is the breadwinner, and the lockdown stripped him of this title, causing the family's costs to continue to pile up. I had to take online lessons because I was going to take my 'A' level examinations, the household needed money to keep running, and we weren't emotionally prepared for such an illness. Everyone understood that our lives had to go on beyond the pandemic in order for us to make ends meet. The tragedies, stress, and strain were difficult for everyone. My education as a whole was disrupted; how could I have focused knowing what was going on at home, and all of these syllabuses had to be covered by the same mind, which was especially worrying for the family? Being alive after the Covid 19 era is a gift from God. The corona virus disrupted the functioning of the entire world.
Covid-19 is a deadly thing that has taken many people’s lives. Some children have dropped out of school because of it, however a number of teachers have resigned due to the fear of this virus in schools. All effects of Covid-19 are negative. It has disadvantaged some children in rural areas who were seeking brighter future due to lack of adequate learning resources, so it’s tough.
This virus has wreaked havoc on a variety of industries, including education. What are we, the students, without school, and how can we communicate information without school?
Regardless, we couldn't allow the virus dictate our life as schoolchildren, so educational study groups were formed to broaden our knowledge, which I have found to be beneficial to date.
Covid 19 has had a significant impact on my school activities, as seen by the fact that we are currently under lockdown, which means we are unable to attend classes. Yes, there are online tutorials, but there are some things that require face-to-face instruction and hands-on practice. The Covid 19 pandemic has also taught me to value and utilize alternative learning platform other than relying on the teacher.
We have since resorted to utilizing internet platforms, since school has been closed due to the COVID19 pandemic. However due to prevailing network challenges and hefty data charges in our country, these platforms have proven not be as effective.
Covid 19 really affected my schooling activities due to the lockdown situation in which, I was unable to acquire tutors in subjects such as Chemistry and Physics. I stay a bit far from the Central Business District so transporting to different locations in order to attend lessons was also a major problem. The reopening of schools however improved the situation.
COVID-19 wreaked havoc on socioeconomic activities, causing many kids to drop out. Due to food shortages and, to a lesser extent, a lack of amusement, some girls in my stream were forced into early child marriages. On the other hand, male students were forced to do drugs and, in some cases, engage in illicit activities. Students struggled in their studies since it is difficult to study online, particularly in science topics that require hands-on experience. Furthermore, several students had difficulty using interactive classes such as Google Classroom and ended up using WhatsApp to submit voice notes and homework.
Faith P Muzvimbiri
As courses were now conducted online, virtual meetings/classes became the new normal, which was a drawback for individuals who could not afford the data bundles or the devices to be used. Due to network issues, students missed classes and were unable to access some schoolwork that needed to be completed. Schooling was reduced to at least three days per week to allow for little contact with other pupils, which resulted in slow progress as students became confused and others were left behind.
Online learning was difficult since it was less interactive than face-to-face instruction. Because of bad networks and an expensive data bundle, several students were unable to access the lessons. On a WhatsApp platform, it was difficult to focus on a lesson because we were tempted to check messages from friends and family throughout class. Furthermore, Covid 19 had an impact not only on our academic lives, but also on hunger and poverty. Self-employed people were obliged to stay at home. They had no alternative way of earning money in order to feed their families and pay their bills.
Simon T Nkatazo
As students, Covid 19 had a profound impact on us. When it arrived, we had no choice but to begin online learning at home. My present degree requires me to spend the majority of my time at school doing practical’s, visiting farms, and participating in a variety of events. So, living at home was a disadvantage since we couldn't conduct those practical’s, go out to farms, or participate in sporting activities. On our parents' side, things were not simple at all; for example, my father was laid off due to covid. It's been challenging to come up with money for school expenses. As a pandemic, Covid 19 has been the worst for all of us.
Hope Chereni (a former student at Gideon Mhlanga High School