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Keeping close in the era of social distancing

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March 25, 2020

Dear Friend of GTL,

The world is currently experiencing a pandemic – Coronavirus disease (COVID-19),  an infectious disease caused by a new virus. The disease causes respiratory illness (like the flu) with symptoms such as a cough, fever, and in more severe cases, difficulty breathing. You can protect yourself by washing your hands frequently, avoiding touching your face, and avoiding close contact with everyone. 6 feet distance is recommended. Or, staying away completely from work and social gatherings. This is social distancing. If someone is showing symptoms, self-isolation is recommended. However, in East Africa, this is a privilege many cannot afford.  For families that live on a day to day income, with 16 million Kenyans living below $2 a day, comprising more than a third of the population in Kenya ( UNDP Report 2019). For those staying in informal settlements such as Kibera slums in Nairobi,  where all amenities such toilets are public, or non-existent, self-isolation is a myth. For all those millions who work as casual laborers “ working from home”, (WFH) is not an option.

The first reported case in Kenya was on March 13, and as of March 22, there are 15 known, positive cases with over 400 being tracked for testing and 20 being tested. Tanzania has recorded 12 positive cases ( as of March 23) and Uganda has 9 positive cases ( as of March 24). The governments, in all three countries upon the emergence of their first positive cases,  have increased public awareness on Coronavirus, placed bans on travel, social gatherings, and a limited number of guests to attend funerals and all learning institutions have been closed. In Kenya, the ban has gone as far as public service vehicles ferrying a limited number of passengers to reduce the number and have at least 3 feet in between each other. The Kenyan Government also had large open-air markets and bus stations being fumigated and made sure all public spaces such as bus stops, and supermarkets, have washing centers or sanitizers at entrances and exits. 

A security guard sanitizes visitors’ hands at a building in Nairobi, Kenya, March 13, 2020 
( Photo Credit: The Straits Times)

As for Uganda, they responded to COVID19  before their first case by closing their borders with Kenya when they reported their first case. Whereas in Tanzania the government has issued strict consequences to those found loitering around without cause.

In Uganda, after the President gave all schools a week’s notice to close on Friday, March 23rd, this was issued before their first positive case. Schools have been closed for 30 days. In Kenya, all schools were officially closed on March 21,  and students were sent home. The schools in Kenya have been closed indefinitely.   “ Some of the students coming from vulnerable households are very anxious, as being in school is preferable for them and some even pleaded to stay in school. Form 4 students who are to sit their final exams at the end of the year are the most affected, says Okello, Western Kenya Coordinator.  However, the Teachers Service Commission has provided plenty of curriculum content for all classes available on radio, TV and even on YouTube that students should access.” However, high-speed internet access will be a barrier to many GTL scholars. 

For more information on GTL’s missions and our scholars in East Africa, check out our website at and follow us on social media;, and

Click this link to support girls education in East Africa -> Growth Through Learning/ Donate Page

We hope that you and your loved ones keep safe, sending you warm wishes and positive thoughts. We are in this together.


Wanjiku K Mwangi

Executive Director

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