Training teachers to foster learning at home
Adalla Allan @Adalla_allan
Over 3.1 billion children and 63 million teachers were affected by school closures globally, a study by the United Nation Education, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) said. Of this, over 700 million children were from developing countries.
In Kenya, 17 million children were affected. For this reason, Dignitas, a non-governmental organisation that works to provide access to education in urban slums, came up with an e-learning programme in May to support children from such areas.
“As Dignitas, we have always worked with children in marginalised communities and in response to Covid-19, we now aim to ensure these children are not neglected, but are given every opportunity to continue chasing for their future.
Through the Leaders of Learning programme initiated mid-May, Dignitas is working tirelessly to protect and promote the learning and well-being of these children,” says Samantha Nyabola, the school support manager at Dignitas.
In partnership with Safaricom Foundation, Dignitas donated smartphones and free access to e-learning tools to teachers in various primary schools in Kawangware and Dandora.
“We enrolled teachers in a training session on how to support and coach pupils remotely at a household level.
They are trained in content such as monitoring a child’s wellbeing, parental engagements, leveraging distance and managing trauma and anxiety in parents.
We equipped them with smartphones set with the curriculum from the Kenyan Institute of Curriculum Development, and assigned them to pupils from 20 households. They attend to them weekly,” she explains.
Before Covid-19, Selestino Murunga, was a teacher at Maranatha Educational Centre in Kawangware, but was rendered jobless.
“It was so tough for me as to stay free at home- something I was never used to. Now through Dignitas e-learning, I have reunited with my pupils.
What I love most about this programme is that it has provided a rapport between teachers and learners, and we are able to interact at a personal level, ” he says.
However, for Maurice Omondi, a teacher at Wama Educational Centre in Dandora, there is still a huge gap between learning from home and learning from school since at home there are no enough materials such as textbooks.
Consequently, it is hard to make contact due to the Covid-19 prevention measures, which limits him from visiting his pupils daily.
Nonetheless, he says e-learning should continue even when things go back to normal.
With the programme, teachers get updates from Dignitas via WhatsApp and Zoom calls after every two weeks.
They share learning packets with the pupils together with activities and marking schemes and call in after two weeks to monitor the learners’ progress, mark their work, add more revision packets and get to know if there are any issues in the household.
If there is a problem, they support the parents with psychological support. They are well trained to do that.
Jane Atieno from Dandora, a mother to three pupils in the programme, says it has kept her three children busy at home and she now knows their weaknesses and their strengths.
“It has been a challenge to keep kids engaged in learning at home since it is something they were never used to before.
I have three learners, one at grade 7, the other one at grade four then the last one at PP2.
Learning from home has been a challenge since the arrangement is very different to that of a classroom.
Here, they have the television and can go out to play whenever I am not inside.
So when I am in, I limit them on time and only allow them to break for a while ,” she says.
Jane learnt about this programme through her daughter’s teacher, Maurice Omondi and she was confident it will keep her children committed in their academics as they stay at home.
Samantha says the programme is set to continue even after schools resume. She points out that their biggest challenge during this period is that no one knows when the schools shall reopen which gives them a hard time in scheduling their syllabus.
“At first, we were certain schools will reopen in September, so we had set our syllabus to cover until then.
However, when the government announced this cannot happen, we were forced to go back to the drawing board and reschedule the entire syllabus,” she explains.