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Doing Small Things With Great Love-Supporting Learning during COVID-19

Updated: Oct 3, 2022

Words by: Eunice Marindany, Cohort III Fellow, Entrepreneurship Mentor at M-Pesa Foundation Academy.

One afternoon as I was out for a training session in Nairobi, I noticed that at some point, some of the people that were in attendance were looking a bit restless and some kept excusing themselves to go out and answer phone calls. I wondered what the reason could be. After the training I got to check mine and right there and then it became clear why people were continuously fidgeting on their devices. There was breaking news that the president had ordered closure of all learning institutions from 15th March, 2020 and children directed to go home and stay with their parents since the scary unseen novel coronavirus was in our country. It was shocking and unbelievable. The stories associated with the disease that we heard being experienced miles away, in other continents, were now a reality in our midst..

As we got into partial lockdown, I started wondering, “How long will this situation last?" In my mind I was wishing for it to be a short time just like going for holiday and back, a maximum of two weeks maybe? And we will step back out of it when the disease has been eradicated or contained. When a fortnight went by and more measures were put in place by the government, I figured out stopping this outbreak will not be that simple. The first group that came to my mind were the children and the new methods of learning that we as parents have to devise. On my side, I realized that as much as I am my children’s first teacher by being their mother, I couldn’t be their class teacher in the 'home classroom', not forgetting that I work in a school and even though I am not a teacher I usually identify as an educator. My Pre-Primary One daughter(PP1), Pesh, started challenging me when I cunningly and carefully asked my hubby to take up the role of teaching the older kids, one of whom is a class eight candidate. I had decided I will be helping the Grade 1 and the little PP1 kids. To me that was the simplest teaching role because we would be doing a lot of colouring, counting, basic arithmetic and play as we watched cartoons.

Oh poor mummy-teacher, little did I know that my 1980s kindergarten (Nursery School as it was called at the time) did not teach me sounds as they are taught today. I have been hearing from time and again kids reciting the Alphabet ‘A,B,C,D’ differently from how we used to recite (If you are a 90s kid who went to school in Kenya then you might know this as well). You can imagine my frustration of trying to teach Pesh as she corrects me and laughs at the same time. This particular situation made me appreciate and salute teachers and I had to say it in my head ,” Kila mtu afanye kazi yake.” which in English translates to: "Let everybody do the work which they are suited for”.

Fast forward, as I watched my kids (who are truly lucky to have text books and their teachers sending them homework via WhatsApp) go through their studies during this period despite the struggle, my mind shifted from them to the students at my home village Macheisok in Kipkelion, Kericho County . See in Macheisok, there’s a handful of people who have gone to college and university. I started wondering how those kids, who have been sent home, are studying even if it means trying to guide themselves or among each other without any external assistance from someone with higher education. I called my friend and asked her how the situation was at Macheisok and her response sent my mind racing. She told me without hesitation in Kiswahili,“Aah huku hakuna kitu watoto wanafanya, hakuna masomo” — to mean that there is no learning going on and that the kids are doing nothing in as much as school work is concerned.

Children in Macheisok,Kericho county, elated to receive learning guides

I began thinking about how I could reach out to these children and thinking how online methods would not work because most of them do not own mobile phones and those who do, don’t have smart phones which enables one to access the internet . As if to read my mind, The Metis community, in which I am a member by virtue of being a Cohort 3 fellow, began conversations about this issue. There were a lot of us within Metis who were wondering how to support children who do not have the resources to study online or don’t have a TV at home. Through the leadership of Rebecca Crook,our team leaders came up with an idea and shared on our WhatsApp platform.

She asked us to contribute ways in which learners who have no access to internet, phones ,computers, TV, radios can learn at home during this period of the COVID-19 pandemic. I knew that this is a project that will benefit my fellow villagers back at home. A Google document was shared to all of us within the Metis community and we got into typing our ideas. I gave my contribution of typing in educational content on the shared folder as everyone else did. I was really proud of being a part of this and was amazed at how fast everything was put together within the shortest time possible. In a week's time, the document was compiled and the process of printing the home learning guides began.

I was ecstatic about being a part of this noble project especially remembering thow people came through to support the initiative. Now, the Macheisok village, my village, was among the beneficiaries of the Home Learning Guides. Indeed I appreciate that the children who have benefited are just a small percentage of those in need, but we are hopeful that we will have more resources to reach out to more. The joy in the children’s faces as they received the learning guides was an indication of their hunger to learn even with very little resources and in the middle of a global crisis. The guides will go a long way in helping them to learn using what is available around their homes and farms.

Hear how Patricia a class 8 candidate from Macheisok in Kericho County,has been using the Metis learning guide accessed to them courtesy of Eunice to prepare for her national exams.

Salute teachers!

Back to my new teaching career, I wish I had all the money on earth to pay teachers, but all I have is a new sense of admiration and willingness to provide them all the support they need by learning a bit more and unlearning what I have always known. I didn’t know until the outbreak of COVID-19, that the Kiswahili we learnt in school has greatly changed and neither did I know that alphabets are taught differently among many other things.

I salute all parents who are not only trying to work from home but also stuck at home with their kids and are managing to teach them in whichever way, online, or just keeping them seated to watch the KICD EDU TV channel and encouraging them to be calm, sharing your phones with them, teaching them some cooking and cleaning as part of learning. I say KUDOS! A big thank you to everyone who is doing their best in their own little ways to keep people informed about COVID-19 and reaching out to children who need to continue learning at home. Let us keep doing our best to flatten the curve as we stay at home, keeping safell and supporting our children to learn at home.

May we all do small things with great love.

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