A golden opportunity to learn
Out-of-school children access education at a UNICEF supported e-learning centre
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Inside a makeshift structure built partially with bricks and pieces of wood, sit about thirty young girls and boys all glued to small screens. With headphones on their heads, the children use special pens to scroll through the content on the tablets. For these out-of-school children aged between 6 and 14 years, it is a golden opportunity to access an education. For many of them, it is their first-time learning.
Excited and eager to navigate through the e-lessons, the pupils are guided by their instructor, Tahir Onoor Ali, at the remote e-learning centre located in Aroma village, Kassala state. The self-learning materials on the tablets are animated and child friendly to support quick learning of basic numeracy, literacy, arithmetic, Arabic, ICT, Science, English and culture, for these children.
14-year-old Aaesha Hadab Ahmed sits at the back of the class. Excited about the learning journey, Aaesha attends classes daily, and is an active pupil. Her first classroom experience was the day she joined the centre.
“I came here because I want to learn. In future I want to be a teacher. I want to teach girls like me Arabic and Mathematics – my favourite subjects,”
Attending her second term, Aaesha has grasped several mathematics concepts and is hopeful that the knowledge attained will support her future dream. “I love the tablets because the e-lessons have helped me understand things faster,” she stresses.
Aaesha is among the 60 pupils currently enrolled at Badareer e-learning centre.
Why e-learning in remote areas?
More than 6.9 million school age children in Sudan are out of school. In Kassala state, about 40 per cent of the same age group do not attend school. Remote areas such as Aroma lack formal schools, with the nearest located 7 kms away and inaccessible by children due to the long distances to and from.
To provide out-of-school children in remote communities with an opportunity to learn foundational reading, writing and numeracy skills, UNICEF is supporting e-learning programmes.
The centre that is operational five days a week, is open from 7:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. with two sessions per day. Children enrolled on the programme receive certificates after the two-year learning cycle.
At the centre children also acquire social skills and are educated on other practices like hand washing, proper sanitation, and child rights.
“Kassala state remains one of the regions with high numbers of out-of-school children. The e-learning programme therefore is a valuable opportunity especially for the most marginalized. UNICEF is ensuring these children are not left behind by setting up e-learning centres to reach them with basic learning opportunities,”
Community ownership and support for education
While UNICEF provides tablets, wooden stands, the education content, and the solar system that powers the centre, the community continues to play a major role in ensuring continuity of services provided for the children.
A committee of twelve members (female and male) was constituted to oversee the running of the centre, enrolment of children, tracking dropouts and educating parents and caregivers on the benefits of education. Importantly, the community is responsible for building and maintaining the shelter that houses the centre as well as provide water for children while they learn.
As they strive to support their children to attain an education, the parents are optimistic that with the skills attained, their children will serve and change their community.
Tahir Onoor Ali, the facilitator has and continues to witness the impact of the programme on his pupils.
“During the first days, many of them hardly know how to hold a pen. But after two years, they leave with basic skills in the various subjects and a lot of knowledge,” he proudly shares.
As the first session ends, the number of children waiting outside for the second session can’t wait to learn. The demand for the golden learning opportunity remains high. UNICEF is working with the partners to roll out the programme to benefit more children without opportunities to attend formal education.