Teaching In Times Of COVID- 19, A Testimony From Kenya
When we started hearing about COVID over the media in rural Kenya it sounded like a far-fetched situation that would most likely not affect us. I was so wrong!!! With no notice or any form of preparation the president of the Republic of Kenya shut down the schools.
This happened over a weekend
Monday all the teachers reported to school but we had no clue what were the next steps. We were confused, we had no pupils and the authorities kept calling and checking that no pupil had reported to school. This spread fear and what was most worrying no form of guidance was given. We eventually went home after a week of reporting to an empty school.
None of us thought the students would be out of school for almost year. The first thing that came to mind is these kids are going to miss meals as we had been providing three meals a day. I sat down with some of my colleagues, identified the most vulnerable families and gave them a month’s worth of food. Fortunately, this gesture was picked up by our friends in the US and through their support we started a food distribution program that lasted for almost three months. We managed to get food to over six thousand families. It is during this exercise we found out most of our students were working in farms doing casual jobs to help feed their families and pay for other needed expenses. No education was going on.
Our students in the rural areas had no access to online learning which has happening in the urban areas, they had no electricity let alone smart phones. There was no sign that schools would open soon. Again we sat down with my colleagues and decided to start a remote learning program. The teachers started generating learning materials that the students would come and pick once week and return the following week. This form of learning returned our confidence as teachers and we were able to see our students at least once a week. For those who did not turn up we sort them out, and we were able to support them once we found out why they were unable to come and pick the learning materials.
I would say I managed this pandemic by using the resources that were available to me and I did not sit and wait to see what happens. My team became extremely busy and most of all fulfilled. The examinable classes came back fully in the month of October and then the rest of the student population came back this year January 2021.
In all my travels to the different public schools in the rural areas, I did not see any input from the government. Yes, there were lessons coming through the radio and TV, but nobody checked or conducted a survey on the accessibility of this mode of learning.
My own kids were fortunate enough as they had graduated from university. However, they have struggled getting steady jobs and have not been fully independent. I am grateful that I was able to see both the institution and my family through this historic phase.
Warucu N Kijuu, Flying Kites Leadership Academy, South Kinangop, Kenya