Securing Education during the times of COVID-19: The case of the NORAD project
Since May 2020, Save the Children’s NORAD Project, which is being implemented in partnership with the Manica Provincial Government, has been focused on supporting a family-based teaching strategy to prevent students in very remote areas from dropping out of schools due to the COVID-19 prevention measures, which closed all educational institutions in the country in March 2020. For this initiative, 436 mobile teachers and 520 community reading promoters were trained to support 50,142 primary school students in the districts of Macossa, Tambara, Machaze and Manica.
The closure of schools in March have severely disrupted children’s education around the country, but the situation is most dire in remote areas. While the government issued lessons through the internet, through classes on public television and radio channels, and through the distribution of exercise sheets that parents and guardians collect from schools, the reality is that in some of the remote areas in Manica province, these are not viable options for students. Not only is there a lack of resources at the district level for printing the exercise sheets for students, but most families do not have radios or televisions, not to mention the fact that many communities are not connected to the electricity grid. The district of Macossa, for example, has no community radio, which makes it extremely challenging for students to continue studying.
To minimize the situation, the Save the Children NORAD project, in partnership with the Government, sought an alternative for the 50,242 students in the project’s four target districts, namely Macossa, Sussundenga, Machaze and Manica. The solution was to establish a system of mobile teachers who would have the responsibility of reproducing handwritten or digitized exercise sheets, as possible. Additionally, a group of 520 community promoters was activated with the responsibility of collecting these exercise sheets in schools and delivering them to students in their respective homes, while explaining their content and answering questions. The next day, the promoter collects the exercises and brings them to the schools so that the teachers can correct them.
“Society must safeguard the rights of the child and education is fundamental; so much so that it is one of our strategic goals. One major challenge we face is ensuring that more girls have access to education – I mean quality education. For that, we need the support and the commitment of the families", said Ana Dulce Guizado, the Manica Provincial Programme Manager.
MACOSSA AND MACHAZE AS ROLE-MODEL DISTRICTS
Macossa and Machaze are considered to be role-model districts for implementing the family-based teaching strategy, as it is through this strategy that the Macossa District Services of Education, Youth and Technology (SDEJT) rescued a little over 50 students who had been sent to work in the local agricultural fields. The Head of the Department for General Education at SDEJT in Macossa, Manuel Fundisse, is pleased with the family-based teaching strategy implemented by Save the Children.
“In our district, we do not have a community radio station where children can learn, as is taking place in other districts. Recognizing these difficulties, we welcome this family-based teaching strategy and it is having the expected effects", said Manuel Fundisse.
The SDEJT Director in Machaze, Juvêncio Fulede, believes that the family-based education is an asset for the education system in general, and he is of the opinion that even after resuming normal classes, the strategy must continue.
“We had many difficulties in the beginning of the implementation of the decree, but as soon as we started the model based on families, we noticed that the children who had passed to the 3rd class were already able to read words, simple sentences and numbers. Children do not leave the home at will; they now have a specific and controlled occupation through the reading promoter, which is a great gain. We feel that parents and guardians are very engaged", said Juvêncio Fulede.
WHAT DO THE BENEFICIARIES SAY?
In the community of Nhamagua in Macossa district, we had the opportunity to meet a10-year-old girl named Serena João. Serena attends 4th grade and claims to have received the exercises through reading promoters, from whom she also asks questions about some subjects.
“I am enjoying the exercises; the teacher must continue bringing them here to my home because I like to study. When I grow up I want to be a carpenter to make doors here in my village", she said.
Parents and guardians in the district of Macossa and Machaze welcome the strategy, as it enables and drives their children's teaching and learning. Edmo Sianhalo, Serena João’s father, says that his daughter is increasingly improving her school work.
“Before the introduction of this system, it was difficult for children to concentrate on their studies; all they wanted was to be on the streets playing. When the promoters started to bring the exercises, we were relieved because it was really just in time. I have been monitoring her performance and helping the promoters with their work”, said Edmo Sianhalo.
Dunda, in the district of Macossa, is another community where the NORAD Project is implementing the family-based education system. Here, over a thousand students from the Primary School in Dunda are assisted, a task carried out by three mobile teachers.
Joaquim Serrote attends 6th grade and says:
"I usually receive exercises to solve in my exercise book and sometimes I read a book to help me solve the exercises that Teacher Inácio Raisse brings weekly".
Elisa Marizane is Joaquim Serrote's grandmother. She closely monitors her grandson's efforts and says that “the initiative is welcome because it encourages teaching, something that my son (Joaquim's father) did not have the opportunity to enjoy properly. The school is doing well for my grandchildren and it is good because while they are here at home they are also prevented against coronavirus. I want them to be doctors".
In Machaze, Zacarias Timóteo, a nine year old boy studying in the 3rd class in the Save Primary School, says that "it is nice” studying at home, despite missing playing with his friends at school. He likes to read and dreams of being a teacher when he grows up.
"I also like to study at school and to play with my friends, but here at home, when my promoter arrives, I like to study with her as well. I want to be a teacher when I grow up", said Zacarias
Also in Machaze, in the community of Macu, little Moisés Mussá, who is nine years old, would normally be studying at the local school. He claims that he was missing his friend and colleague Elias, who he has not seen him since the schools were closed.
“I wanted to go back to school to see my friend Elias. When I go back to school I really want to study to be a teacher, because teachers receive money and with that money I will be able to help my parents”, said Moses.