“We encourage teachers to continue teaching and learning during the COVID-19 crisis, but we know it is not easy for everyone”— Head Teacher Mutegarugori
As COVID-19 advances, its effects become ever-more pronounced. The public health crisis is aggravated by the social and economic aftermath: job losses, school closures, increased poverty. Since March 16, 2020 all education institutions in Rwanda have been closed in immediate response to the first case of the virus – disrupting the education of about 2.5 million primary and about 600,000 secondary school learners. In response to the devastating impacts on education, VVOB-education for development partnered with the Mastercard Foundation through the Mastercard Foundation’s COVID-19 Recovery and Resilience Program.
When schools closed in March , Rwanda Education Board (REB) acted swiftly and doubled the capacity of its existing e-learning platform and launched a radio learning program and YouTube channel in an attempt to reduce the impact of the school closures on pupils’ education.
While the online learning modalities have attracted many users, most learners, teachers, and school leaders remain left out as they lack access to the required infrastructure. Moreover, the majority of teachers and school leaders have not been equipped to deliver distance education, and more particularly online learning.
As schools plan to reopen in September 2020, additional challenges arise:
- Will learners find their way back to school?
- Will learners be able to catch up on lost time learning?
- Will schools have the appropriate protocols in place to safeguard learners, teachers, and school leaders’ physical and socio-emotional well-being?
Candide Mutegarugori is the Head Teacher at Marie Adelaide Gihara secondary school in Kamonyi district. She believes that technology is a viable alternative to continue managing and leading her school as the world faces this unprecedented health crisis. However, Ms. Mutegarugori is concerned about students’ ICT skills and affordability of ICT devices and services among her teachers. “We encourage teachers to buy internet airtime to continue teaching and learning during the COVID-19 crisis, but we know it is not easy for everyone. Some teachers do not have ICT devices such as smartphones or computers,” she said.
To ensure effective online learning, VVOB will deepen the capacity of its education partners to provide and monitor online CPD services to teachers and school leaders, equipping them with the competencies to provide high-quality education both off- and online. Access to hardware and internet being a precondition to participation, VVOB will also equip key education actors with laptops or tablets, as well as modems and/or data-allowances.
The project is built around four pillars, including:
- Provision of laptops and internet connectivity to all key actors in all 30 districts, establishing an enabling online CPD environment.
- Development of a digital data-ecosystem for planning, monitoring, and evaluation in order to solidify a quick response system to emerging needs.
- Integration of thematic support on building resilient schools in current CPD materials.
- Capacity building of district and sector officials in 16 non-LIT districts on effective school leadership, , mentoring, and coaching respectively and ensuring teachers and school leaders have the required ICT skills to participate in online learning.
“Through this initiative, VVOB, in partnership with the Rwandan Government and the Mastercard Foundation, continues to lay strong foundations for relevant and cost-effective continuous professional development services for key actors in the education system in Rwanda. These key actors will be supported to take up a leadership role in the system to address the current challenges and to become more resilient for future challenges,” said Jef Peeraer, the Country Programme Manager at VVOB Rwanda.
“I thought the situation would be back to normal in one month, but it has continued. I appreciate that VVOB thought about online learning as an alternative during this crisis. I borrowed a laptop from my school and I am now able to follow the training online despite some internet connection issues in my area,” said Enock Twebaze, a school-based mentor at G.S Saint Philip Neri in Gisagara district.
Mr. Twebaze was in the middle of session one of four sessions for the Educational Mentorship and Coaching certificate course offered by VVOB with support from the Mastercard Foundation. The 18-month project (June 2020 to December 2021) is part of a larger response program of the Foundation, which aims to support institutions and communities in African countries to withstand and respond to the short-term impacts of this pandemic, while strengthening their resilience in the long-run.
“During this crisis, we need to step up our support in the education sector to mitigate against the loss of learning, particularly among the most vulnerable groups. We also need to see this as an opportunity—a chance to invest in the future, which will undoubtedly be marked by greater digitization, convenience, technological advancements, and, if we take the right actions and make the right investments, inclusion for all. Enabling educators to deliver e-learning is part of planting the seeds to create a fairer and more equitable world,” said Rica Rwigamba, Country Head, Rwanda at the Mastercard Foundation.
Given the closure of all schools throughout the country due to the COVID-19, VVOB has prepared for full online and distance delivery of the CPD training programmes. These programmes were offered face-to-face and partly in blended modality before the COVID-19 outbreak. VVOB and its partners have redeveloped the courses for delivery online and made them accessible to all participants that are able to enrol.
To enable the delivery of these training programmes online/at distance, VVOB provides monthly internet and communication allowance to the University of Rwanda - College of Education (UR-CE) trainers and course participants for facilitation and participation in online CPD activities.
Once this virus has been beaten – which it will – VVOB will organise blended training trainings for participants who cannot participate in full online programmes, to ensure all the necessary learning outcomes have been achieved.