More Questions than Answers
When it comes to education, learning has been severely disrupted and many of our students are not able to be supported to learn from home because of limited or no access to technology and the internet. Big Picture Learning Kenya works with schools in urban slums in Nairobi where many families live from hand to mouth. Access to computers and data to access the internet is simply out of reach for these families, so many of our learners are not engaged.
At Big Picture Kenya, we have come up with some ways to support learning and provide social and emotional support to our students. We have partnered with other organizations that are providing learning resources such as Metis. Metis donated home learning guides to help families create a daily schedule with math and literacy activities, science and emotional health.
April and August are usually school breaks for students in Kenya and this is when our students take part in LTIs. In the current situation, this is not able to happen as planned, so we are now using this time to build new skills for our learners. This week, we are supporting the first 20 learners to continue to gain skills that they would have built during their internship. These will be practical skills in line with the students’ interests. In collaboration with school leaders and advisories, we have mapped out online platforms that also provide short courses, and we are also having further discussion with other Big Picture Learning programs with the support of our friend Scott Bolt, so that we can have the program finalized and set up.
We would like Sara to continue to deepen her passion for investigative journalism, for Stanley to become an even better photographer and farmer, for Dreack and Obie to build their musical skills, and for Berlin to do law and pursue her hunger for social justice.
We plan to continue engaging students weekly on the online platforms where our students will provide summaries of what they have learned and have discussions with their peers. After completion of the short courses, successful students will be awarded certificates.
Our struggle is that our students don’t have home computers or internet access. They do have phones, but we need to provide data for airtime so they can access these short courses. We are looking for funding but during these times, this is a challenge.
We continue to conduct weekly welfare checks with our students through platforms such as WhatsApp. This has created a safe space for our students to raise concerns they have and, in turn, we are able to address their challenges and share coping strategies during this trying period. We are looking to prepare printable learning resources for our other students who will have no access to a smart phone and phone data.
Another initiative we introduced was a food distribution program to provide essential supplies for families like dry foods (rice, wheat flour, maize flour, green grams, and beans). In this package, we also include soap, sanitizers and tissues. For girls, we organized care packages containing menstrual cups and panties to ensure that young girls have access to the sanitary products they need in this season. We also provided free reusable and washable cotton face masks for the students and teachers in our community so they can all have the protective supplies they need to stay safe.
Questions and Hope for the Future
We are challenged to be resilient and focused on our goals. Our students are a constant inspiration to us as they continue to remain positive in this time. Many things will need to evolve very fast as we continue to adapt to this new season. A big focus for many institutions now is setting up systems to support learners in this season and in the future. An even bigger question is: how will we make online learning inclusive? Many of the learners from marginalized backgrounds have no access to learning devices and the internet. In some rural communities, even access to electricity is a problem. As we investigate and explore these new ways of learning, we will also need to think about reaching all learners with different abilities. In a typical classroom, we have a wide range of students who often need different types of support to succeed in their learning. At this point, we have more questions than answers for what lies ahead, but we believe that we can find the responses and solutions together!
Collaboration will be key for the future for us to shape the new learning experience for our children and ensure that every child, everywhere in the world, can access the education and support they deserve. Please reach out to us through our social media platforms if you would like to connect and learn more about what we are doing in Kenya. Facebook. Twitter. Instagram.