World Cup winning former Springbok Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira has urged schools in Eastern and Southern Africa to remain open during the Covid-19 pandemic.
“I am deeply worried about the futures of our children if school closures continue,” he said in a video message from his home in South Africa, adding: “Across Africa, schools are not only places of learning, but places that protect many children from violence, often offering them their one nutritious meal of the day, and a way out of living in poverty”.
Mtawarira retired from rugby after the 2019 World Cup and has since started The Beast Foundation which helps children through sport, education and life skills.
He said Africa has learnt a a lot throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and, with the right measures in place, schools can stay open safely with the knowledge that children are less likely to fall ill with Covid-19 nor spread the disease.
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According to Unicef, there are currently 18.9 million children out of school due to Covid-19 related closures across the Eastern and Southern African region. Ugandan schools are fully closed, while in Mozambique pre-primary learning is still yet to open. Botswana, Eswatini, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe recently re-opened schools after full or partial closures.
Keeping schools open is close to Mtawarira’s heart. Last year the Beast Foundation collaborated with Unicef to produce a video titled ‘Africa Strong’. “Let’s encourage our schools to stay safe and open, and our children to return to their classrooms. And let’s ensure our kids practice behaviours that we know can prevent the spread of the virus – wear their masks, social distance and wash or sanitise their hands regularly. Prioritising children’s education is the best investment in the future – for Africa and for all of us,” Mtawarira said in the video.
Compiled by Gareth Cotterell