Learning English through the waves

Children continue to learn through radio lessons while schools are closed

Helene Sandbu Ryeng
A girl turning a knob on the radio
22 May 2020


A news presenter is giving the latest news in Arabic but quickly cut off by Congolese rhythms it is difficult to not to get up and dance to. The music is quickly replaced by a public service announcement on the Coronavirus. Angres (14) is turning the knob on the radio, searching for Radio Miraya and the English lesson scheduled for 2pm.


Two teenagers listening to radio together
Angres (14) and Christine (12) are listening to the English lesson together. They are both in primary 6 and used to studying together.


It is two months and one day since the schools in South Sudan were closed as a measure to halt the transmission of COVID-19 in the country. South Sudan already had 2.2 million children out of school before the schools were closed. With such a dire education situation, a solution had to be found.


Two girls are studying while listening to the radio
Elizabeth and Elizabeth are listening to the English lesson given on Radio Miraya


Together with the Ministry of General Education and Instruction and education partners, UNICEF has developed radio lessons which are presented live on Radio Miraya and South Sudan Broadcasting from Monday to Friday, covering English, math and sciences. During weekends, pre-recorded lessons are aired. During the lesson, children can call a toll-free number if they want to ask the teacher in the studio a question.

Irregular verbs are not easy, and analyzing sentences without seeing the words even harder. "I miss my teachers," Angres says. "It is not always easy to get what the teachers are saying on the radio and sometimes you need more explanations."


A girl behind a radio
Elizabeth is listening to the English lesson, but her favorite subject is science.


“I have listened to the radio lessons since last week. It is ok but not the same as being in school where the teachers can explain to you and help you," says Elizabeth Kojo. "I miss being with my friends, we are mostly just at home now. I want to be a doctor when I grow up. My favorite subject is science and I want to make medicines for people.”

Keeping children engaged in leaning while the schools are closed is not only important for teaching them the curriculum, but also preventing children from dropping out of school. We know that the longer children stay away from school the likelihood of them returning to school is reduced.


A girl with a pencil in her mouth
Marina is following some of the lessons for the older learners.


Marina is just eight years old and the English class is not suitable for her age, but she likes to hang out with her older sister and her friends. And maybe she picks up a thing or two. The radio lessons is also important for children to stay active and occupied, keeping them at home and away from risks such as abuse and exploitation.

 “I spend much of my days reading. I read stories but I also read textbooksr," Christine says.


A girl looking at her notebook
Elizabeth is looking at her notes in the notebook.

The radio lesson initiative is planned to run for six months, depending on how the outbreak of COVID-19 evolves in South Sudan.



The Ministry of General Education and Instruction and UNICEF would like to thank the EU, the Global Partnership for Education, the Government of Norway, UK AID (DfID) and USAID for their generous contribution making this happening. A big thank you to MTN for arranging the toll-free numbers and we would also like to express our appreciation to Save the Children International, UNMISS and UNESCO for their contributions to children’s learning during these unprecedented and trying moments.