I want to take this opportunity to recognize the outstanding work of the ISD educators and staff and to thank each of them sincerely. They have gone above and beyond to provide a high-quality education for our students this year and to keep everyone safe despite truly extraordinary circumstances. It has been a hard year for everyone. Covid has been in Senegal for over a year now. The government closed all schools on March 14 last year. We were fortunate to be able to reopen for classes in-person learning in September and we were able to have 111 days of school on campus before the recent security issues have forced us to move to remote learning. Few schools in Africa or Europe have been open for in-person learning more than ISD. The resolve of our faculty and staff has been essential to teaching students in person this year.
The best thing for our students is to be on campus and learning in person. The students clearly enjoy being on campus and are engaged in their learning, despite some restrictions due to the health and safety guidelines. The stress caused by the ongoing pandemic has increased our students’ anxiety and other mental health issues. The number of students who need support from our counselors is at the highest point in recent history. Having students on campus has allowed our counselors to better support them.
Teaching in person has also increased the stress level of our teachers. Every day our teachers and teaching assistants come in contact with 20 to 60 students. This means they are exposed to 20 to 60 different households for 45 minutes or more per day. Our health and safety measures, requiring masks in particular, have prevented outbreaks on campus, but the daily possibility of contracting the virus is stressful. The events of the past few days have only increased our stress level.
So, to the educators and the staff, I personally thank you for everything you do to make ISD a special place for students. Your dedication and professionalism have allowed us to remain open for our students and help them continue their academic progress.