Over the past ten months, the EduQuality team of Opportunity EduFinance has developed a range of ways to support schools while they have been closed. This has included our Covid-19 Response Toolkit which is also being shared through the UNESCO Global Education Coalition. As part of the toolkit, the team designed and delivered the Pathways to Reopening guide, which is available in six languages and discussed in engaging podcasts recorded by our Education Specialist teams from five countries in Africa. The guide provides practical guidance and checklists across five essential areas most relevant to schools as they planned for reopening. Read our previous blogs to hear more about the Pathways to Reopening guide.
As many schools have begun phased reopening, in mid-October we spoke to five members of EduFinance staff about the additional resources they developed to dive deeper into the Pathways to Reopening focus areas, internally referred to as ‘Phase 3’ resources. We discussed the feedback and responses received from school leaders, as well as how digital communication will be used going forward based on the lessons learned during this time.
What additional resources and units have you developed to supplement the topics in Pathways to Reopening?
Surabhi Vaidya, Project Management Associate (India): After we finished disseminating the Pathways to Reopening podcasts, we collaborated as a team to come up with a laundry list of all the specific sub-topics we thought school leaders may find useful to receive additional ‘deep dive’ resources on. Using the feedback from follow-up calls with school leaders, we then narrowed the list down to priority topics and ensured they all aligned with the 5 focus areas we had already highlighted in the Pathways to Reopening guide. Slowly we were moving to prepare schools for the massive undertaking of reopening.
Agnes Nabbaale, EduQuality Project Management Associate (Uganda): For the ‘Phase 3’ sub-topics, we included advice on engaging hard to reach areas and parents, and also looked at what businesses schools’ can run alongside school operations and how to start a new business. A lot of the material focused on training teachers to use different ICT channels, following government standard operating procedures (SOP) for reopening, counseling for teachers and students, and child protection during school closures.
We also produced practical content on sample remote lessons, and teacher retention strategies including communication strategies. For the last two weeks we have been offering training to school leaders on using ICT as well as how to set up group saving schemes for staff and microfinance options.
Why are these particular topics included in the Phase 3 resources so important: Child protection, lesson planning, teacher retention and school safety and health protocols?
Violet Akinyi Oketch, Senior Education Specialist (Kenya): During school closures there were many cases of child abuse and early pregnancies. We came up with content on child protection which was well received. The school leaders didn’t know that they could deliver child protection content while the schools were closed so we developed this material so they could understand how to deliver it.
In terms of lesson planning, remote learning was a challenge. The school leaders wanted to know if they needed to plan and how to plan for remote learning systematically. We helped them to understand how to plan lessons for remote learning.
Shadrack Niyonzima, Education Specialist (Rwanda): Based on the feedback from our school leaders, we found out what they wanted the most. Schools had issues with the security of learners and we wanted to find the content which would protect learners not only during the closure but also preparing for reopening. Teacher retention was a big issue. Schools might not be in direct touch with the teachers, and some had gone to other jobs. We suggested communication methods for staying in touch.
Madam Beatrice, the owner of Rise to Shine school, said she prepared for school reopening using different ideas from EduFinance's virtual School Leadership Professional Development workshops, looking for different partners to support her school. Luckily, she got a financial institution that provided the school with different tools that will test temperatures to protect learners from COVID- 19. Mama Beatrice said "We are now ready to protect our learners and staff at the time schools will be reopening."
Agnes Nabbaale: Phase 3 content is about guiding schools on how to reopen and on giving them necessary tips on how they can do this with minimal resources. Non-state schools in Africa don’t get as much attention from the government. I feel it was vital for us to come through for our schools and give them the guidelines which they did not have elsewhere.
How have the school leaders been responding to the resources EduQuality has shared with them?
"School leaders have said they found that when the government reopening checklist came it contained everything that we had already shared with them through Pathways and this meant that they had already prepared for it." - Shadrack Niyonzima
Mina Sarpong, Senior Education Specialist (Ghana): There are a few school leaders who are so excited, especially for going digital with some aspects of teaching. They have confirmed they had already started moving towards digital and that what we added has filled in whatever was missing in their knowledge. They hope to continue integrating digital lessons even when things normalize.
“I have seen a mindset change especially when it comes to the use of ICT and the other technological systems ever since we started with Facebook.” - Agnes Nabbaale
Violet Akinyi Oketch: In terms of financial and business management, the school leaders sent us photos and appreciated the ideas on starting up and running a side business to help cover fixed school costs. We have found that the content we shared on how best schools can prepare for reopening was widely implemented. School leaders held parents’ meeting to plan reopening. Two school leaders shared with me that they were able to retain all their teachers after using our content, which discussed how to engage with teachers during school closures even when they were not paying them.
What Agnes is saying about mindset change around ICT is so true. Our schools can now use Zoom. Recently in Kenya we held an all-school leader meeting on Zoom and they were able to share ideas with each other.
With schools now starting to reopen, how much of the online support via Facebook groups for schools in each country will continue?
Tim Maple-Foster, Product Development Associate (UK): We’ve picked up a big audience on our Facebook groups, so we will continue to use those going forward to share content with our school leaders. We are also potentially planning to set up teacher mentor Facebook groups as well to share more content directly with teachers. It’s opened our eyes that we can use social media effectively as part of everything that we are running.
I think videos can also be effective going forward. There's been a group of our team in Uganda making short videos around school reopening strategies, sharing what specific schools have done to prepare for reopening. They have been sharing their video skills with other Education Specialists across the programme, and we’ve been supporting them to make more video content that is relevant to our schools in this period. I think there is a good opportunity going forward to create more video clips that share examples of schools’ demonstrating good teaching techniques that can benefit their peer schools in the programme.
To keep up to date with all of the work of Opportunity EduFinance subscribe to our quarterly newsletter.