To slow the spread of COVID-19, especially amongst school children, the Federal Ministry of Education mandated the closure of all public and private schools on 23 March 2020. This official pronouncement was carried out with immediate ramifications for Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, and UNICEF-supported schools and learning centres in the states of Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara.
Since then, EAC and UNICEF have been working with the aforementioned state governments to keep children learning remotely via radio and television.
Skilled and qualified teachers have recorded multiple lessons covering different class levels and subject matter. These lessons are currently broadcast for children to watch and/or listen and learn from home. Furthermore, some lessons are shared via community WhatsApp groups to extend this initiative’s reach even further.
To raise awareness concerning remote learning, the joint Girls Education Project Phase 3 (GEP3), is supporting states with a sensitisation campaign vis-à-vis community engagement structures, radio jingles and TV spots, aiming to reach children of all school ages.
In that vein, GEP3 is supporting states with respect to monitoring and lesson documentation for the e-learning programme to ensure the strategy to effect remote learning is working and educating pupils while schools remain closed. Furthermore, this remote-learning initiative’s beneficiaries provide critical feedback through designated phone numbers and WhatsApp groups.
Mallam A. Adam, a trained teacher facilitator through GEP3 teaches early-grade reading to his children and those of his neighbours in the Karfen Sarki community of Sokoto, using the ‘Mukaranta!’ and ‘Lets Read!’ textbooks provided by the project.
He says, “After the 7:30 am radio lessons, children seem to be left doing nothing for the rest of the day. It is only right to continue utilising the skills acquired as a teacher facilitator to teach, so that the children are not idle for long stretches.”
Mallam continues, “The idea of home lessons has attracted the interest of many parents who have asked that their children join in too. I have to reschedule [ lessons] to have fewer children at a time to respect social distancing.”
Remote learning has, in some instances, strengthened family bonds and increased understanding between parents/guardians and children. Both mothers and fathers support their children during the virtual lessons.
As the number of COVID-19 cases continues to rise, the likelihood of schools re-opening in the immediate future remains an open question. Relevant authorities and education stakeholders have begun discussing the means to sustain and expand remote learning to reach still more children from communities that may have been missed by the initiative. Without question, EAC and UNICEF are committed to supporting learning for vulnerable children adversely impacted by the pandemic to ensure learning continues.