Globally, most schools shut down in March 2020. In disbelief, school stakeholders were worried about the uncertainties which have now lasted 6 months. At the thought of losing their livelihood, the school leaders experienced a mixture of emotions and did not know what the future had in store for them. Most leaders shared that they werer not prepared for the effects, such as interrupted learning, compromised nutrition, child protection concerns, and consequent economic cost to families who could not work. Amid all these uncertainties, as leaders in the communities, theirs is a story of innovation and a display of great dimensions of Growth, Resilience, Instinct, and Tenacity (G.R.I.T).
Despite the very challenging times and the changes that have come with the pandemic globally, one thing remained constant; children, parents and the communities at large continue to look up to the school leaders for encouragement, provision, and support. In turn, they also found ways to support the schools where possible in their small ways. We asked one of our school leaders what keeps them going and she quoted Desmond Tutu - “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
- Robinah Zawedde, Head Education Specialist, Africa
“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” - Archbishop Desmond Tutu
In September, our Education Specialists shared a few of the many stories they have heard from school leaders about how they continued to support student learning during school closures. As many countries are now beginning to gradually reopen schools, we wanted to reflect on the many innovations school leaders and teachers implemented during this unprecedented time to continue student learning to the best of their abilities, reaching as many children as possible, despite personal hardships and difficult contexts.
Syed Ali Abbas, The Nation's school system, Illumine School System, and Apex Educational Institute, Lahore Region
“As schools were closed for an indefinite period of time, we opted for long-distance learning or e-learning; however, there was unavailability of laptops, and internet connection in student's homes. Our administration switched mode of learning and started sending weekly video lectures to students through USBs. The teachers would record videos of each subject, demonstrating the selected topic. They also assigned written tasks, and practice materials during that video.”
Lason Yousaf, Al Yousaf Model High School, Gujranwala Region
“It was very difficult for us to approach each student one by one and teaching them online was rather tough. So we tried to manage 12 area wise drop-off sites for students near their homes where they can collect their syllabus and summer pack. Teachers were available at these centers to guide them if needed and also collected student fees. Through these centers, we provided not only academic resources but trained parents on how to safeguard themselves against COVID-19. This helped us generate funds for our school’s running.”
Ambreen Sajjad, Unique Angel Grammar High School, Lahore Region
“COVID-19 came suddenly. We faced many problems. Then we tried to figure out how we could engage teachers, students and parents. We prepared lessons and workbooks for students for home-based learning. Teachers started sending the lectures through WhatsApp to the parents. Parents came to the office every weekend and submitted the assigned tasks. Teachers marked the assignments and returned them to the parents on a weekly basis. And where internet facility was not available, teachers used to assign work through SMS from mobile network.”
García Herreros School, Altos de Cazuca, Ciudad Bolivar de Bogotá
The school has 335 students from a very vulnerable section of society where most of the families do not have the necessary conditions to learn at home. In most cases, there is no computer, or internet, or other devices that allow remote education. Additionally, the parents economic, social and emotional instability affect their ability to support home learning. Also, more than 50% of the teachers did not have the skills to integrate information communication technologies (ICT) into their pedagogy.
Despite these conditions, the García Herreros School managed to bring education to each of its students through WhatsApp. When the emergency began, they did a study to find out how many families had a telephone and found that at least one member of each family had a simple telephone where this application could be downloaded. Some have internet, but others do weekly recharges to be able to use it for classes.
The school set a schedule for families who could use the cell phone and connect in the morning. For those who cannot connect at this time, times are organized either in the afternoon or at night. There are cases in which several students must connect to the same cell phone so other schedules are established for them. Teachers are available around the clock to support all of their students.
Acropolis Maranatha Academy started virtual learning on 27th March 2020. This was made possible by first compiling and creating class-based WhatsApp groups which allowed the school to engage the broader parent base. Teachers were tasked to send assignments to the learners through the various class WhatsApp groups to solve the questions and then send the response to the teacher privately.
After some time Zoom meetings were organized for the learners on a daily basis with a timetable drawn to regulate the lessons. In this way, learners are able to interact live with their facilitators ask questions and have their questions answered. The challenge, however, was having a reliable internet connectivity and the cost of data. This means virtual learning continued until management decided to consider a sustainable way of engaging students. This led to the formation of a working group led by the ICT teachers to design and develop a platform to be used to engage learners. The team considered a system that will meet the following criteria:
- Live teaching to students
- Shared pre-recorded lessons
- Classroom lessons and assignments
- Regular homework to students
- Automarking and grading of students
Areebabyona Kanyonyore, Trinity Primary School, Bukoto
“The management of Trinity Primary School set out to record 25 lessons on video which were short enough to sustain the concentration span of Primary 7 learners. The teachers had gone through training on remote teaching and learning which enabled them to focus on being audible and articulate.
The videos were uploaded on Youtube and shared on the school website as well as on the classroom Whatsapp page. At the beginning, very few parents showed interest but by the time they posted the 25th lesson, all the 56 Candidates were fully engaged in meaningful learning and it had become their new normal. Limited data to download and upload content, lack of smartphones or computers, as well as lack of skills to use these gadgets were all challenges. Parents have had to budget for data for children just as they do with home needs such as food.
Remote learning can sometimes pose a challenge of feedback especially from the learners, but Trinity Primary School has a class coordinator who calls each child’s parent to follow up on the progress of every individual learner. Parents also ask for help on the WhatsApp platform where the coordinator responds to their queries in the agreed time.”
Read more from our team of Education Specialists in our September Newsletter.