Navajo Nation COVID-19 and its impact on education

Due to COVID-19, Window Rock Unified School District staff gathered at a stadium to keep sufficient distance for an educational development meeting. Distance learning has been very difficult in the Navajo Nation.

Jennifer Nez Denetdale, professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, says the federal government has not done enough to help the Navajo fight COVID-19.

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CGTN America Releases “Navajo Nation’s Impact of COVID-19 and Its Impact on Education.”

The impact of COVID-19 has been profound for the Navajo Nation. So far, there are over 30,000 confirmed cases and 1,300 deaths.

The good news: the infection rate is dropping. The bad news: The curfew remains in effect and parks on Navajo lands remain closed.

With a population of over 330,000 people, no Indian tribe in the United States is larger than the Navajo Nation. Its reserve spans three states: Utah, Arizona and New Mexico. According to the Indian Health Service, the 25,000 square mile (64,750 square kilometer) reserve – an area the size of West Virginia – has just six hospitals and seven health centers.

Jennifer Nez Denetdale, professor of American studies at the University of New Mexico, says the federal government has not done enough to help the Navajo fight COVID-19.

The country’s education system has also been affected by COVID-19. In March 2020, Navajo authorities halted the in-person learning. To maintain social distancing, staff from the Window Rock Unified School District meet in a stadium.

Dr Shannon Goodsell, superintendent of the Window Rock Unified School District, said distance learning is a challenge in the Navajo Nation. Many students cannot afford laptops, and Wi-Fi is not available in many homes.

For students who can’t connect at home, teachers run lessons in the stadium, holding lessons at times when parents are shopping in town, taking their kids. They also organize classes in the chapter rooms (a council room for each distant clan), which have internet service.

On the bright side, Geraldine Peshlakai, Director of the Window Rock Unified School District Intermediate Learning Center, spending more time with their parents is an opportunity for children to learn about the respective cultures of their clans.

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