Children continue learning amid the COVID-19 pandemic
Several months after schools were closed, state governments in north-west Nigeria, with support from UNICEF, are finding new ways to keep children learning
There was likely a moment in March, very early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when many students across Nigeria were happy about school being put on hold. After all, it gave them an unexpected break from their studies. Sadly, any positive feelings about being sent home are now long gone, with the break having now grown to months without classes, friends or the routine of normal life.
With the pandemic still raging, UNICEF has partnered with Educate a Child (EAC) to help children in four states (Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Zamfara) in north-west Nigeria learn remotely through lessons broadcast on radio and television.
Under the program, which is supervised by state and local government authorities and School Based Management Committees (SBMCs), qualified teachers record lessons on various subjects, which are then put on-air for children to watch or listen to at home. Some of the lessons are also shared via community WhatsApp groups for wider reach.
Community engagement structures like SBMCs, mothers’ associations and parent-teacher associations are working hard to ensure families are aware of the lessons. Radio jingles and TV spots also spread the news, aiming to ensure all school -aged children are covered.
UNICEF is also supporting the states to effectively monitor and document the lessons for improved coordination of the e-learning programme. UNICEF field teams, State Area Education Officers, SBMCs and mothers’ associations collectively monitor the initiative and students and parents themselves also provide feedback through dedicated phone numbers and WhatsApp groups.
Many have gone above and beyond their obligations to help ensure children get the best education possible under the circumstances.
Mallam Adam A. Adam, a UNICEF-trained teacher facilitator under the Girls Education Project (GEP3) in Karfen Sarki community in Sokoto State, participates as both a teacher and monitor. He has also been giving reading lessons to both his children and his neighbors’ children, using textbooks provided by UNICEF.
“After the 7:30am to 8:30 am radio lessons, children have little to do,” he said. “It is only fair to continue using the skills I acquired as a teacher facilitator to make time to teach my children and those of my neighbours, to ensure that the children can be productive throughout the rest of the day.”
Since he’s started the home lessons, other parents have asked Adam if their children can join in as well, and he’s agreed help.
“I have to organize my time to have a small number of children at a time for each lesson, to make sure we comply with social distancing,” he said.
Such community-led efforts can help children continue their learning and development until schools can eventually re-open safely. And perhaps one benefit of remote learning is that parents who now take a more active role in their childrens’ education form a closer bond with them.
With the number of COVID-19 infections still rising in Nigeria and a return to normal still a long way off, discussions have started on how to expand remote learning in order to reach communities that may have been missed by the initiative. UNICEF, in partnership with EAC, is commitment to support learning for all children in focal states across Nigeria – including Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto, and Zamfara States – and to ensure learning continues.