What did children do during school closures? Insights from a parent survey in Tanzania

Research and practitioners' insights
Shardul Oza
Jacobus Cilliers

An estimated 1.29 billion students across the world have suffered from school closures. The impacts of school closures on student learning loss will clearly be largest for poor households and poor countries, where households have limited resources to access remote learning or conduct home schooling. There is the additional concern that many students will not return to school once they open. UNESCO estimates that by the end of January 2021, schools in sub-Saharan Africa were closed for 24 weeks on average. National governments and the international community responded rapidly to these school closures by organising remote learning opportunities. However, early studies showed that the penetration of EdTech was weak.

This insight note reports results of a phone survey that the RISE Tanzania research team conducted with 2,240 parents (or alternate primary care-givers) of primary school children following the school closures in Tanzania. After the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Tanzania on 16 March 2020, the government ordered all primary schools closed the following day. Schools remained closed until 29 June 2020. Policymakers and other education stakeholders were concerned that the closures would lead to significant learning loss if children did not receive educational support or engagement at home. To help stem learning loss, the government promoted radio, TV and internet-based learning content to parents of school-age children. The primary aims of the survey were to understand how children and families responded to the school closures, the education-related activities they engaged in, and their strategies to send children back to school. The survey also measures households’ engagement with remote learning content over the period of school closures. The authors supplement the findings of the parent survey with insights from interviews with Ward Education Officers about their activities during the school closures.