It’s another weekday when kids should be in school at Little Wlebo Public School in Maryland County, Southeast Liberia but all hopes are dashed due to the Coronavirus pandemic. There is no school in sight, all schools including the Bridge LEAP supported government school her children go to in this locale, have since closed due to government’s regulation to try and curb the virus.
Madam Lago Louise, a refugee now based in Liberia for almost a decade, hopes of having her kids learn in the free government school programme operated by Bridge Liberia seems all but ended.
She sits at Little Wlebo Refugee Camp pondering on what else can happen to her family, after war ravaged her beloved Cote D’ivoire and took away her husband.
Life challenges her again, as the Coronavirus pandemic rages in Liberia and in her home country. Thirteen deaths so far and nine hundred plus cases recorded put the Ivory Coast far ahead of Liberia with just 141 cases at the moment and several recoveries.
With her three kids and the uncertainty on how long the pandemic will last, Madam Louise has another hope at the end of the horizon.
She’s awaiting the local radio programme via the Government run Liberia Broadcasting System to tune to what remains of school, the nation’s ‘Home Learning Program.’
Designed by the Ministry of Education and other local educational partners , the hour long show provides lessons for kids. Drawn from the local curriculum, kids have an opportunity to learn via radio classrooms while parents continue home learning with provided materials following the show.
Radio is a strong medium for remote learning, especially in Liberia due to its wide reach in all communities. However, it is most effective when the content is designed specifically for radio. It is enough simply to read a lesson out online, it must be engaging and interactive. This is why the government’s carefully curated programming should be praised; designed for specific age groups it seeks to offer targeted learning.
In addition, organizations have developed robust educational materials resources to ensure continued remote learning for tens of thousands of students across Liberia.
Bridge Liberia has created Bridge@home; distributing daily learning guides and student activity sheets in communities and online as well as posting using social media channels; SMS and WhatAspp
The materials are freely available and allow all parents – and home educators- to access for their children’s use. The easy to use materials are accompanied by parent friendly guides and answer keys. On a Monday, Grade 5 may be learning about plants and on a wednesday that are focussed on fractions. They are following the curriculum as they would in school.
The material has been sized on and is being used by a wide range of groups across Liberia, including organisations like Rebuild Africa.
Former Education Minister, Georeg Werner has highlighted that “When schools closed, children lose an anchor to the education system that makes it much less likely they will find their way back. It is critical to provide an alternative as quickly as possible to keep them engaged. This was a problem during Ebola when it took too long to get emergency education radio broadcasts going.”
In Liberia, we can not expect that parents and communities can all access online materials; this is why it is important that the online remote learning programming is just one aspect coupled with the radio and SMS initiatives; that are complementary. Unlike in other countries, Liberia is not using a range of disparate programmes but a package that works together and is designed to reach all communities through one or another channel.
For Liberia, the progress and impact are being felt as a random call to parents like Lagos has proven that kids are learning and having fun via radio while being watched by parents.
‘It brings the family together at this point; gives us hope that schooling can continue without a school. My fear was that the chances they had would be taken away if they stay without learning.’ she states