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WELS leads community education in Zimbabwe during COVID-19

A young, black African girl sits on a step outside writing in a note book.

Research conducted by WELS colleagues during the pandemic-enforced school closures explores the complexities of remote learning for many children in low-income countries who are offline.

The Community Help for Inclusive Learning and Development (CHILD) study, part of the OU’s IGATE-T project (Improving Gender Attitudes, Transition and Education Outcomes), looked at how mobile phones were used to recruit and equip community volunteers to support children’s learning during COVID-19 school closures in Zimbabwe.

During the study (August-September 2020), 110 community champions were able to reach over 1,200 learners across four districts in Zimbabwe. The study examined their experiences to address the overarching research question:

In the context of pandemic-related, widespread school closures across Sub-Saharan Africa, how can young people in disadvantaged rural communities be supported, locally and from a distance, to maintain engagement in educational activities?

The report, co-authored by WELS academics Tom Power, Dr Alison Buckler, Dr Margaret Ebubedike (all ECYS) and Martha Tengenesha (IDO) alongside colleagues at World Vision, highlights a novel approach to building formal frameworks that facilitate informal, flexible ecosystems for children's learning that could work in tandem with formal schooling and could be scaled up to provide more substantial learning activities for a more substantial number of children.

Some of the report’s key recommendations to support children’s learning during emergency school closures are:

  • When recruiting local volunteers, projects should seek to identify people who are already active, known, and trusted champions of education within the community.
  • Work in partnership with community leaders from the outset, using community networks and village meetings, to raise awareness and promote participation.
  • Provide simple guiding messages about the use of daily learning activities, as an 'open-ended' challenge, so that volunteers and communities can respond flexibly to changing circumstances.
  • Be aware that what begins as a short-term crisis response might lead to longer-term change. These experiences might help improve teaching and learning in schools, and build closer partnerships between the school, caregivers and the community.

The CHILD study is crucial to understanding more about the diverse ways children’s learning can be supported and maintained during school closures. 

Along with sporadic, unpredictable, and uneven returns to school, such disruptions are likely to be features of education for millions of children for the foreseeable future.

Download the CHILD report
Find out more about the IGATE-T project and its partners

 

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