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May 20, 2020

Second Term Opens Together While Apart

Sunset over USAPCS
Sunset over USAPCS

Greetings from Zimbabwe. I just got back home from spending a week at our school, empty save for a few of our junior faculty who elected to stay there to be able to complete university online courses that they had started with Pioneer AcademicGreetings from Zimbabwe.  I just got back home from spending a week at our school, empty save for a few of our junior faculty who elected to stay there to be able to complete university online courses that they had started with Pioneer Academics.  While peaceful, there was a certain emptiness on campus, reflecting the fact that really the magic in our school is our middle name - Community.  Without the students' determination and cheer, the quirky intellectual humor of our faculty, the labor together that keeps our campus clean, waters the garden and feeds us all, there is no school.  

Second term would have opened for Zimbabwean schools on May 5, but here, two weeks after that date, we are still on lockdown, scattered across the country.  However, the spirit of USAP Community School continues - we have increased the intensity of our remote teaching and have diverted to a full teaching schedule.  Faculty and student are in "class" together in WhatsApp groups.  Teachers create "Khan Academyesque" videos which students download the night before their lessons.  They spend the first 20 minutes of class watching the video and then embark on an assignment that the video leads to - their teachers and TAs and classmates are there in the app group ready to lend a hand when they face a challenge or have a question.  

And we are together in other ways - the Media Club shares their now famous weekly hashtags and "quotes of the half week" and explanantions of ecommemorative days, students from our accapella group often share voice notes of beautiful singing on Sundays at the time we would have Quaker meetings and our Head of School still sends weekly letters to the students.  As much as possible, we are building our community  - together while apart.

Our students have impressed us with their resilience and service during this time - reflecting our school values as they adapt to our current COVID-19 world.  One travelled for 12 hours, mostly on foot, 40 km to move from his village location to a factory where his uncle works in search of electricity to be able to attend our remote classes on his phone.  Some have been the beacons in their neighborhoods to share COVID-19 prevention awareness, setting up handwashing stations and providing infomation by whatsapp.  Others are tutoring neighborhood children and siblings, setting up lessons for kids of all ages.  Some have voluntarily undertaken the not so inviting work of cleaning public toilets and clearing brush around wells.  Others have planted gardens at home so their families will have a source of food during the lockdown.  

Maintaining our school, though not open, comes at a cost - we continue to pay operational costs such as rent, salaries, health insurance and security while incurring new costs like data and purchasing sanitation and PPE supplies to prepare for reopening.  During this difficult time, we thus come to you, our supporters, and especially those of you who support us monthly through recurring donations, to thank you .  Thank you for your belief in our students and in our community.  Without you, we wouldn't be together during this time apart.

May 20, 2020

Second Term Opens Together While Apart

Sunset over USAPCS
Sunset over USAPCS

Greetings from Zimbabwe.  I just got back home from spending a week at our school, empty save for a few of our junior faculty who elected to stay there to be able to complete university online courses that they had started with Pioneer Academics.  While peaceful, there was a certain emptiness on campus, reflecting the fact that really the magic in our school is our middle name - Community.  Without the students' determination and cheer, the quirky intellectual humor of our faculty, the labor together that keeps our campus clean, waters the garden and feeds us all, there is no school.  

Second term would have opened for Zimbabwean schools on May 5, but here, two weeks after that date, we are still on lockdown, scattered across the country.  However, the spirit of USAP Community School continues - we have increased the intensity of our remote teaching and have diverted to a full teaching schedule.  Faculty and student are in "class" together in WhatsApp groups.  Teachers create "Khan Academyesque" videos which students download the night before their lessons.  They spend the first 20 minutes of class watching the video and then embark on an assignment that the video leads to - their teachers and TAs and classmates are there in the app group ready to lend a hand when they face a challenge or have a question.  

And we are together in other ways - the Media Club shares their now famous weekly hashtags and "quotes of the half week" and explanantions of ecommemorative days, students from our accapella group often share voice notes of beautiful singing on Sundays at the time we would have Quaker meetings and our Head of School still sends weekly letters to the students.  As much as possible, we are building our community  - together while apart.

Our students have impressed us with their resilience and service during this time - reflecting our school values as they adapt to our current COVID-19 world.  One travelled for 12 hours, mostly on foot, 40 km to move from his village location to a factory where his uncle works in search of electricity to be able to attend our remote classes on his phone.  Some have been the beacons in their neighborhoods to share COVID-19 prevention awareness, setting up handwashing stations and providing infomation by whatsapp.  Others are tutoring neighborhood children and siblings, setting up lessons for kids of all ages.  Some have voluntarily undertaken the not so inviting work of cleaning public toilets and clearing brush around wells.  Others have planted gardens at home so their families will have a source of food during the lockdown.  

Maintaining our school, though not open, comes at a cost - we continue to pay operational costs such as rent, salaries, health insurance and security while incurring new costs like data and purchasing sanitation and PPE supplies to prepare for reopening.  During this difficult time, we thus come to you, our supporters, and especially those of you who support us monthly through recurring donations, to thank you .  Thank you for your belief in our students and in our community.  Without you, we wouldn't be together during this time apart.

USAPCS Inaugural Class 2020
USAPCS Inaugural Class 2020
Apr 21, 2020

Resilience: USAP Community School During COVID-19

Patience raises awareness of COVID near her home
Patience raises awareness of COVID near her home

We hope this reaches you, our loyal supporters, and your families, safe, healthy and well during this very uncertain time globally. 

Just two weeks before the planned end of our first term, the government of Zimbabwe called for all schools to close their doors and for the country to prepare to go into lockdown mode.  We abided and sent our students home on March 24 and our two American teachers temporarily back to their famliies in the U,S.  Fortunately, we planned carefully to devise ways that our students could continue to study and our school culture could continue to thrive despite this uncertain chapter.

To that end our teachers worked hard to compile two months of work for our students to take home, loaded on their Kindle Fire tablets, together with pdfs of their textbooks.  They also selected several library books to carry.  For those who live in rural areas far from any source of electricity, we loaned solar lamps with chargers so that they could use the sun's power to charge their kindles and be able to study at night. 

Becuase our students do not have access to the Internet, it is not like other schools who have simply moved classes to online platforms like Zoom.  What we have done to adapt is to ensure all of our students have access to a phone with WhatsApp - we send them Whatsapp data bundles every Monday.  We've virtually set up our school on WhatsApp - there are groups for every class, for most extracurriculars, for each advisory group and one for the whole school.  Faculty hold office hours three times a week where they can give mini-lessons by voice note and answer questions and respond to academic challenges students are facing.  Advisory group meetings on app mean no student can fall though the cracks with all of the challenges that lockdown in a food-insecure or low-income family can bring. The Media Club continues with its reports to the school, the chess team gets weekly tips, and cross country are doing workouts at home.  

Holiday homework for Research Methodologies Class has been service learning projects at home or in one's immediate community.  We are really impressed with the positive impact our students are making with tutoring children in their homes or neighborhoods, planting nutritional gardens, cleaning communal toilets and most of all setting positive examples for COVID-19 awareness and sanitation in their neighborhoods.  Two students, togehter with half a dozen USAP alum have set up COVID-19 Zim app groups that now have over 600 members and share fact-checked relevant information three times daily.  

Keeping school going under these extraordinary circumstances does not come without a price.  We still have to pay our rent, our salaries and operational costs as well as lots of buy phone data to keep in touch with all of our students.  We thank you, our support base, for you ongoing support that allows us to continue to provide a transformative education for students who otherwise would not have access to a bright future.  

We know the road is going to be long, but we will get there, traveling together with our USAP family.  Thank you for being part of that family, 

Olive uses her solar lamp and kindle to study.
Olive uses her solar lamp and kindle to study.
Walk the day before schools closed for COVID-19
Walk the day before schools closed for COVID-19
 
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