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Dear friends of YONA
 
 ‘’Music is a weapon in the war against unhappiness.” – Jason Mraz

Along with millions of children worldwide, the children of Namibia have experienced five months of interrupted schooling, loneliness and boredom – all because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, for the children of YONA, there was a lifeline in the form of continued music education. We would like to thank our sponsors for providing the funds that enable YONA to carry on this work. They are B2Gold, RMB through the FirstRand Namibia Foundation Trust, Horizon Foundation, Gondwana Care Trust and individual sponsors and donors.
 

Namibia’s response to the pandemic

On 17 March this year, President Hage Geingob announced a state of emergency to prevent the spread of Covid-19. Borders closed, public gatherings were suspended, and schools were closed. On 28 March, the country went into full lockdown. Namibians returning to the country were subject to two weeks’ quarantine. From 5 April until 20 May there were only 16 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the country, and only in June did we start seeing evidence of community transmission. Through all these months, children were not allowed to attend school. Since the 2nd of June, there has been a gradual reopening of schools, starting with grade 11 and 12. Schools were opened briefly for Grade 1-3 and grade 7, only to close again when confirmed Covid-19 cases started rising dramatically. Most recently, however, the Ministry of Education has agreed that schools can reopen for face-to-face learning from 7 September, phasing in the return of students gradually.
 
I am giving you this background in order to explain the predicament facing Namibian children. Some of them have not been to school at all since March, and are reliant on online teaching, educational booklets and parents or grandparents teaching them. Parents are back at work, which often means that children stay at home without adult supervision.
 
At the time of writing this letter, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 8 323.
 
Most children in the country have not been furthering their education effectively since March. They have been housebound, bored and frustrated.

SUPPORT A CHILD

Three generous individuals have already pledged to become part of the Musical godparents’ project. Their monthly contribution has been covering instrument rental and lesson fees for three children. We are looking for more people to join this initiative and support a child with a monthly contribution of 20 or 30 Euro/month (320 or 480 NAD per month).

Your contribution can help YONA to expand and give more children this precious opportunity. For more information, click on this link:
Click to support a child

YONA’s RESPONSE

Right through this crisis, YONA has continued to offer music education. We have adapted to the various restrictions in the following ways:
16 March to 4 May: During the hard lockdown, we offered online lessons to our students. We adapted to the children’s circumstances by offering lessons on WhatsApp video call, Skype, Zoom or FaceTime. Some children only had access to a parent’s smartphone, and if the internet connection was bad, we sent demonstration videos and gave them feedback when they sent us videos of their playing.
5 May to 1 June: Restrictions were lifted slightly, allowing gatherings of less than 10 people. We gave teachers and parents the option of individual face-to- face lessons.
2 June to 29 June: As school started opening for some grades and public gatherings of up to 50 people were allowed, we started teaching a combination of smaller groups, theory classes and individual or duo lessons.
30 June to 12 August: As local transmission of the virus started increasing rapidly, YONA decided to suspend group activities and only teach individual and duo lessons.
13 August to 21September: Coinciding with the school holidays and a dramatic spike in the rise of infections, everyone at YONA took a month-long break.
14 September onwards: We have resumed lessons from the 21stof September with small groups and individual lessons only. This allows us to observe social distancing guidelines and minimize the spread of the virus, while still giving the children the much-needed stimulation of regular music lessons.

PEOPLE

As you may already know, our volunteers, Ella Wietheger and Sophia Klingler, had to return to Germany in March. However, we were blessed with other people who were available as a result of the pandemic.
Eike Coetzee was back in Namibia for 5 months because his music school in Germany had closed, and he was able to teach four of our violin students from March until August.
Yeh-Chan Park also had more time available as a result of the border closure. He agreed to teach our 3 viola students, some violin students and our senior theory class.
For 5 months, we could not teach at BNC (Bernard Nordkamp Centre) or PAY (Physically Active Youth). This freed up Osmond Owoseb, who came to our Suiderhof centre to teach theory and also supervise the hygiene protocol.
We also had the help of volunteers and visitors from previous years; Christina Oellers, Anna Hagemann and Sarah Harris, who taught some of the children online lessons.
Angeline Jung (flute, recorder), Morten Sauer (cello), Karie Morgan (clarinet), Lesley Stansell (oboe), Irmgard Rannersmann and Gretel Coetzee (violin) also continued teaching, and Georine Rechholtz (admin) and Manda Steynberg (accounting) have been working hard behind the scenes.
At the beginning of August, the YONA team was privileged to spend a day out in nature; enjoying a braai and just relaxing together. We are so privileged to have all these people that are passionate about music and education.

CONTINUED PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT FOR TEACHERS:

Since the start of the pandemic, the Global Leaders’ Program (GLP) has offered support to the worldwide El Sistema movement in the form of open enrollment seminars, master classes, chat sessions and community workshops. A workshop specifically designed for YONA was presented by Breanna Thornton (USA) and Fernanda Lastra (Argentina): titled Conducting Rehearsal Strategies for Student Ensembles. The team of YONA teachers joined a Zoom meeting and were able to tap into the vast knowledge and experience of these two passionate musicians. Our thanks go to Santiago Hernandez and Raul Vergara of GLP, for organizing all these opportunities. GLP has truly been a source of continued inspiration and support throughout this challenging year.

INSTRUMENTS

Normally, children have the option to hire instruments from YONA at a minimal fee. Some parents cannot afford the rental and security deposit, but because the children could also practice at YONA every weekday, it did not matter that much if a child did not take his/her instrument home. However, at the start of the lockdown in March, we made the decision to allow all the children to take their instruments home so that they could have online lessons and continue practising. We insisted that the parents sign out the instruments personally and follow the correct procedure. Once we return to normal, they will have to return the instruments, unless ‘musical godparents’ could be found to cover the rental costs.
 

LOOKING AHEAD

We have been unable to present any concerts this year. Instead of a concert, we are in the process of making a video which will tell the story of 2020 and showcase the children’s progress. We are looking forward to sending you the end product!
 
Thank you for your support and interest in YONA. May you stay hopeful, strong, healthy and fulfilled through this challenging season.
 
Warm regards,
Gretel Coetzee - Director
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