A new comic book will help learners understand critical health messages on Covid-19, including learners with special needs.

The Corona O’clock comic is an initiative by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). With characters named Moesha and !Ke, the comic was officially launched on at the Christiana School for the blind and partially sighted in the North West Province.

Earlier this year, UNDP South Africa launched a call to creatives to help translate critical public health messages related to Covid-19. They received over 72 exciting  submission from over 50 young artists.

A submission of a comic strip by Allan Sithole and Stan Montsho inspired the comic project aimed at positively influencing perceptions and behaviours of adolescents, particularly those with visual impairments. One of the characters in the comic is visually impaired and has albinism, an example to learners with special needs navigating the pandemic.

No learner left behind

The comic book is part of a “basket of responses as reflected in the risk adjusted strategy” to the Covid-19 pandemic, says the deputy minister of basic education Makgabo Reginah Mhlaule. Corona O’clock combines story with interactive elements like puzzles and word searches.

“The way the comic strips are packaged gives us great relief that indeed no one will be left behind,” says Mhlaule. “It offers them a fair opportunity to reach lifesaving health information.”

“The department of basic education carries a constitutional obligation to provide and facilitate quality education for all learners of school going age in South Africa,” she added. “Learners with special educational needs are part of the learners population of this country and should never be left behind or labelled as such, because they are learners of South Africa.”

Coronavirus Comic Learner Education

The Corona O’clock comic. (UNDP)

Amid celebrating the comic, Mhlaule says the basic education department still faces the challenge of parents of children with special needs who keep their children out of school.

“We have a double battle as we have parents who sometimes are afraid to come out and say I have this child, and we have the government that does not have enough facilities for these children,” she says.

The department has converted a large number of schools into inclusive schools to cater for learners with minor disabilities, says Mhlaule. They are also training more teachers in braille and sign language.

Time for new habits

The department emphasised the importance of practices like social distancing and mask-wearing to minimise the spread of Covid-19.

“That’s why the [comic is titled] Corona O’clock, which means it’s time for corona, time to do things differently as compared to the way we used to do things in the past,” adds the deputy minister.

The UNDP commended South Africa’s response to the pandemic. The UN agency is supporting South Africa by supplying personal protective equipment and helping officials develop key knowledge systems. Informed decision-making will lead to “better recovery and how to provide innovative ways to respond to the pandemic,” says Gabriel Dava, UNDP deputy resident representative in South Africa . – Health-e News