Home learning innovation supports access to education during the pandemic

“I love coming here to play with my friends and to draw pictures in my book.”

By Abel Asiimwe, Hussein Senkanja, Hassan Bamwenda, Ally Kamihanda
home learning, early learning, ECD, early childhood development, COVID-19, children, boys, girls
UNICEF Uganda/2022
04 March 2022

Musa Sserwanjja, 61, from Kyabaduuma Village, Kalonga Sub-County in Mubende District is a father of six children and three grandchildren. In his community, Sserwanjja is among the parents/caregivers that desire the best for his children and puts their education first. But his hopes were almost crushed by the prolonged COVID-19 school closures from March 2020 to March 2022. 

To support continued learning then, Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) with support from UNICEF put in place home based learning as an alternative intervention in the districts of Mubende, Kikuube and Kasese. The home learning activities were conducted by trained Early Childhood Development (ECD) teachers, caregivers, parenting groups at designated homes while observing the national COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and integrated with radio programming. 

“The lockdown affected us a lot. The children had waited for long to return back to schools, and this had encouraged redundance of children as it is hard to keep them at home which is risky! The schools help to keep children safe… I was happy that home learning was being considered in our village,”

Musa Sserwanjja.

Sserwanjja was pleased with the good news that Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) in collaboration with UNICEF was going to support home-based learning for Early Childhood Development (ECD) targeting children aged 3-5 years and quickly embraced this chance for his children to access learning during COVID-19 lockdown. Feeling motivated, Musa was happy to participate in the mobilization exercise for the children around his village to start home learning. 

home learning, early learning, ECD, early childhood development, COVID-19, children, boys, girls
UNICEF Uganda/2022

The concept of home learning

Home learning is conducted through established home learning centres, home visits and interactive radio talk shows. UMSC sought permission from local leaders and parents/caregivers after sensitizing them on benefits of home learning during COVID-19. Homes with eligible children were mapped and number of children established per village and clusters based on sub-county. Parents/caregivers in a locality agreed on one of the homes to host the home learning sessions after considering available space, sanitation facilities, safety of children, accessibility, and ability to observe COVID-19 SOPs. Upon approval of a host for home learning, children attended learning sessions for three days in a week from 8 a.m. to noon and children engaged in reading and writing, telling stories, singing, and playing activities.

“Each day has a schedule as per scheme of work, we start with games and physical exercises to stimulate the mind before joining the class to learn how to read and write and end the day with outdoor activities like skipping the rope, playing football and telling stories,” said Kamugisha Didas,

ECD teacher, Nsozi, Kyangwali. 

In addition to the routine session, the ECD teachers also conduct weekly home visits for discussions with parents and caregivers on the progress of their children’s’ learning experiences.
 
“We conduct home visits to sensitize both parents/caregivers and children on the importance of play-based learning and training parents/caregivers on Key Family Care Practices (KFCP) and teach them on how to make play materials such as balls and swings at home using local resources,” asserted Bananuka Kuraishi, ECD teacher, Kyabaduuma ECD cluster.

During COVID-19 lockdown, home learning provided a platform for the children to continue learning, interact and play with their peers. 

“I love coming here to play with my friends and to draw pictures in my book,” confirmed Pupil at Nsozi home learning centre, Kyangwali, Kikuube District. 

“My family allowed parents to bring children to our home. I see no problem with this initiative, and it has benefited our children. My sister who is enrolled in home learning here has improved in interacting with fellow children, can now sing and has learnt some English words. I am also happy to see the children play and sing, I enjoy it,” Brendah Nyakato, Nsozi village, Kyangwali, Kikuube District.

With funding from the Swedish National Committee for UNICEF, the UMSC and UNICEF partnership in the 3 districts of Kasese, Kikuube and Mubende reached 4068 (2,103 Females and 1,965 Males) children through the home learning initiative and 946 households visited to educate children on parenting and play-based learning.