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COVID-19 Public Education Campaign: Returning to school safely

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07.28.2022

COVID-19 PUBLIC EDUCATION CAMPAIGN: RETURNING TO SCHOOL SAFELY

INTRODUCTION

The reopening of schools during the Covid-19 pandemic was met with great resistance and scepticism with some parents, teachers, and organisations raising genuine concerns due to the limited understanding of the science surrounding the virus. The COVID-19 public education campaign was aimed at increasing awareness of the virus and strategies to cope with the virus, with emphasis on education within a COVID-19 health framework.

The COVID-19 Public Education Campaign was two-pronged and was implemented from July to October 2020. The first component of the project targeted the school community (SGBs, SMTs and teachers) using a range of media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, WhatsApp, and a dedicated website. The second component targeted the broader public through a Public Radio Campaign –SIKHABA iCovid-19.

PROJECT ONE: RADIO, SOCIAL MEDIA, AND WEBSITE COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN

OVERVIEW

The Zenex programme team members attended a webinar organised by five trade unions to share scientific information about the COVID-19 virus, the risk of infection and precautions needed to create safe schools. The webinar was oversubscribed with 450 people ultimately attending.  Prior to the webinar and during the discussion, more than 100 questions were received from attendees with concerns ranging from health-related questions, enquiries on testing and screening, to interrogations on how to manage schools. What was evident from the engagement was that targeted information was required to help the school community understand the virus and develop strategies to cope with the many scenarios that schools are and will be facing. This prompted the development of the Covid-19 Education Campaign to assist in providing information and removing any fear surrounding the re-opening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.

OBJECTIVES

  • To provide valuable, relevant information regarding the risks of the pandemic, and mitigations (precautions) that need to be taken to create a safe schooling environment
  • To create an interactive platform where teachers can share and ask questions to support one another in an abnormal environment.
  • To provide messaging and support to SMTs on the reopening and closing of schools when a COVID-19 case is confirmed.
  • To promote and share good practices among schools using easily accessible media tools.

PROJECT DESIGN

Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) has been used widely throughout the world as a powerful means to educate, inform and influence social and individual change. To do this effectively, discourse as well as an emotional connection are necessary ingredients. Equally important is re-enforcing the message on multiple platforms to shift behaviours and extend reach. The multiple platforms used in the programme include radio as the lead medium, supported by digital and social media. Each medium brings its own strength but when combined allows for maximum impact.

Radio (Live Talk Radio)

The focus on radio allows the campaign to have wider reach and participation. Key areas to address include the need to reopen schools while taking into consideration the fears of parents, educators, and learners. Safety issues and the changing school environment during the pandemic will also be discussed. The aim is to create an emotional connection with the audience. The envisioned impact of the radio talk shows is to shift and change behaviour through discussion and debate. 

Social Media: Facebook and WhatsApp

Facebook and WhatsApp are widely used communication networks amongst the targeted communities and a range of features such as a dedicated Facebook page will be set up with content which is carefully curated and includes webinars and infographic videos.

Facebook: The content on Facebook will mirror and align to the radio programmes. The content will be supported by infographics and short videos. With Facebook being an interactive platform, daily community management will be implemented to ensure that queries are responded to timeously. The content will be updated daily and contain current messaging.

WhatsApp: WhatsApp is the most used instant messaging channel in South Africa. It removes barriers to access and ensures ease of use amongst the targeted communities. The platform allows and facilitates the sharing of rich media which is difficult to do on other non-web-based platforms. The use of the WhatsApp channel will amplify the content from radio talk shows.

Website

A dedicated website has been developed and contains news, blogs, and relevant contact information. The intended impact of the website is to be a solid repository of information to be read and absorbed at leisure and serve as a back-up of all other information produced for the project.

PROJECT TWO: SUPPORTING THE PUBLIC COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN – SIKHABA iCOVID-19 OVERVIEW

The drive was designed as a multilingual radio campaign to ensure that all people in South Africa have access to Covid-related information, particularly those without digital devices and who do not speak English.

Social Media: Facebook and WhatsApp

Facebook and WhatsApp are widely used communication networks amongst the targeted communities and a range of features such as a dedicated Facebook page will be set up with content which is carefully curated and includes webinars and infographic videos.

Facebook: The content on Facebook will mirror and align to the radio programmes. The content will be supported by infographics and short videos. With Facebook being an interactive platform, daily community management will be implemented to ensure that queries are responded to timeously. The content will be updated daily and contain current messaging.

WhatsApp: WhatsApp is the most used instant messaging channel in South Africa. It removes barriers to access and ensures ease of use amongst the targeted communities. The platform allows and facilitates the sharing of rich media which is difficult to do on other non-web-based platforms. The use of the WhatsApp channel will amplify the content from radio talk shows.

Website

A dedicated website has been developed and contains news, blogs, and relevant contact information. The intended impact of the website is to be a solid repository of information to be read and absorbed at leisure and serve as a back-up of all other information produced for the project.

PROJECT TWO: SUPPORTING THE PUBLIC COMMUNICATION CAMPAIGN – SIKHABA iCOVID-19

OVERVIEW

The drive was designed as a multilingual radio campaign to ensure that all people in South Africa have access to Covid-related information, particularly those without digital devices and who do not speak English.

PROJECT DESIGN

The programme is designed as a 6–10-minute daily radio broadcast on 13 SABC radio stations. The format consists of an opening and closing billboard, a COVID dashboard, questions and answers sessions with an expert, and a motivational message from a celebrity, leader, or frontline worker. The content is informed and developed using various sources of information including questions by listeners, daily diaries submitted by approximately 200 people across the country, and an independent team of experts.

IMPACT OF THE PROGRAMME

Sikhaba iCovid-19 aired radio programmes from April 2020 until July 2020. The programme ill be extended for an additional 13 weeks to end in October 2020.

CONCLUSION

The radio, social media and website campaign is intended to build a foundation in which the schooling community continues to share and learn how to safeguard teaching and learning during the pandemic. This will help schools as they continue to re-organise themselves under the new health and teaching practices that are needed to save lives. The aim is that Sikhaba iCovid-19 campaign will positively influence public behaviour in relation to the pandemic. The campaigns are positioned as trusted sources of information, with messages having a real voice and identity. The information shared will reinforcd core preventive strategies aimed at building social solidarity, personal agency and compassion.  

 

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