By Contributing Writer: Julius Jeh
It feels like a lifetime since the first Coronavirus cases were reported. In a sense, it also feels like yesterday that life was different. Work, travel, social interaction, and everything that makes life meaningful for many people has become affected and we have since learned to live a new normal, of course we never know for how long.
Over 10.7 million people have become affected worldwide with the coronavirus, a number that continues to rise steadily on a daily basis. In Liberia, more than eight hundred people have become affected. Our authorities continue to race against time to stymie the spread of the disease, employing various measures. There have been lockdowns imposed, hygiene methods adopted, and new ways of life employed. Schools have been ordered closed like everywhere else on the planet. According to UNESCO, at least “67.6% of total enrolled learners” have been affected, amounting to 1,184,126,508 students. These students have been staying home and if the battle was against education, COVID-19 could have felt victorious.
There were surprises lying in wait, though. The Liberian government through the Ministry of Education quickly adopted a remote learning programme. The “Learning by Radio” program is the most talked about, where learners from elementary to high school are taught via the radio at specific time intervals. Many partners have provided the Ministry with pre-recorded audio content and lesson scripts to use, including Liberia Educational Advancement Program (LEAP) partners. that has been. So, rather than students just being home unattended, the radio learning initiative has offered a window of hope for Liberian children.
As an educational practitioner, I have observed with amazement the adaptable educational approaches employed by our education community to help parents. These approaches are innovative means by which the Government of Liberia must be proud that its educational partners have remained engaged and committed to the education of Liberian children, despite the challenges of COVID-19. The Bridge Liberia programmes, a partner of LEAP, has caught my attention. Delivered through SMS and WhatsApp groups parents are receiving daily activities and learning guides for their children (ACCESS HERE!). In some communities, one parent is teaching multiple local children and in other teachers are drawing children together; sometimes older siblings are helping the younger ones. We are seeing many people come together and help fill the gap that has been left by no school. The Bridge@Home initiative has been as revolutionary as it is innovative and has made education undefeated while Coronavirus rages on.
The educational service provider is also working with community leaders and school staff on running sessions on how those in the community can keep safe; and hygiene options. Wash stations were set up at the outset and continue to be well used by individuals.
These two moves indirectly empower parents and guardians to become teachers without them realizing it. If this is not caring not just about the educational needs of children but also their overall well-being, then I am waiting to see what else will.
Furthermore, Bridge Liberia uploads lessons for all of its classes – Beginner to Grade 6 – including daily lesson guides and activity sheets for learners to complete. The organization believes that “it’s really important that children continue to learn and grow until schools reopen,” and therefore “support our families and make sure that learning is disrupted as little as possible.” Importantly, evidence from across the country shows that parents and guardians are implementing these activities and that learning continues to take place nearly unabated.
Education has always been revolutionary and inspirational for societies to combat different enemies and surmount them for their own growth and development. We have seen how innovation has made education to remain undefeated despite a virus that has challenged and paralyzed established and, hitherto, impervious systems across the world – thanks to the Government of Liberia, the Ministry of Education and partners like Bridge. Like many policymakers, educational stakeholders, parents, and students who have been in awe of Bridge’s unwavering drive to continue educating Liberian children despite the challenge of COVID-19, I am of the conviction that with partners like Bridge remaining engaged with the Liberian educational system through the Liberian Educational Advancement Program, the education of Liberian children is on the right footing to produce, in the words of former President William Tolbert, “future competent citizens.”
Alphonso has been in the profession for over twenty years. He has worked for many international media outlets including: West Africa Magazine, Africa Week Magazine, African Observer and did occasional reporting for CNN, BBC World Service, Sunday Times, NPR, Radio Deutchewells, Radio Netherlands. He is the current correspondent for Reuters. Mr. Toweh holds first MA with honors in International Relations and a candidate for second master in International Peace studies and Conflict Resolution.