Raissa Malu

How do you continue to learn at home?

Video clips to help secondary school students learn are produced in the DRC.

According to UNESCO, 89.5% of the world's learners are affected by school closures as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the Democratic Republic of Congo, approximately 16 million primary school pupils and 5.5 million secondary school students (2017-2018 statistical yearbook of the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education) are no longer attending school since 19th March 2020. For the vast majority of these children in the DRC, not going to school means to stop learning altogether.

Limited access to information

Let me give you some figures. According to a survey carried out by the National Institute of Statistics (INS) in 2017 and 2018 among 20,792 households in rural and urban areas, about 20% of Congolese households have access to the electricity grid, 37% have access to the radio and 9% to a television set, 35% have a mobile phone. Only 13% of men and 4% of women aged 15-49 reported using a computer in the last 3 months. These figures are 18% and 5% respectively for Internet use.

I'm not even talking about bookstores and libraries (even if they existed, people couldn't go there anyway). And if you take time to watch the broadcasts and shows offered on local TV and radio channels, you will understand my fear.

Education at risk

In this context, the Congolese education system finds itself in great danger with the much-needed measure of closing schools in the face of the pandemic.

How then can learning continue to be provided? Should we give up? No, I don't think so (those who know me know that it's in these moments that I like to say: "you lied!" or "no effect!" 😉).

Changing our ways

I am one of those who firmly believe that it is time to rethink the way we learn, teach, interact, govern, care, consume and help each other in Africa. It is also the time to accelerate the scaling up of initiatives that have proven their efficiency.

For example, now is the time to subscribe to the home delivery service available in your city, which will provide you with products from our local producers. How about a local jam, a local honey pot or locally produced water?

Repair and design in Africa

How about using local engineers to repair or design machines that are better adapted to our realities? In Kinshasa, for example, the director general of the Institut national de préparation professionnelle (INPP) recently launched a Twitter call inviting hospitals to bring their broken machines to them, which would then be repaired free of charge by INPP engineers except for spare parts to be replaced. This is their contribution in the pandemic. Well done!

Initiatives such as this one will probably multiply, but for this to be a real success, they must lead the whole Congolese society (all African societies) to redisign itself profoundly and sustainably. We can, we must now do things differently!

One student at a time

But let's come back to our point. I was reading recently (before the pandemic broke out) Fernando Reimers' book One student at a time. In this book, the author interviewed and collected the testimonies of several leaders in the field of education. I can assure you from experience that it is extremely difficult (and frustrating) to reform an education system.

Fernando Reimers rightly reports: "Seeing this system, some of these leaders understand that no single agency has the formal power to generate change and this leads them to engage in collective leadership efforts to produce cooperation and alignment across diverse organizations and sectors".

Need for a collective leadership

That's where we are! The Congolese Government through its Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education does not have the means to implement its policies, and no single agency or project has the formal power to bring about change on its own. No!

What we need now is a collective leadership able to produce cooperation and alignment between various organizations and sectors. This is the only way to be sure that one student at a time, one household at a time, one province at a time, we ensure continuity of service in this time of health crisis and that we continue and strengthen the process in healthy times.

Production of didactic sequences

How much will we actually get out of it? At the Project of Education for the Relevance of Teaching at Secondary and University Levels (PEQPESU), of one component of which I am in charge, we will allocate resources for the production of didactic sequences for students and teachers that will be broadcast on television and radio (on national channels), as well as on the Internet.

As far as possible, we will help teachers to continue their distance learning in the resource centres available throughout the country (while respecting social distancing and hygiene measures) with the digitization of the training modules.

Continue learning at home

The didactic sequences will notably be inspired by those that the non-profit organisation Investing In People has just produced as part of the 7th edition of the Science and Technology Week (which is also reinventing itself 😊). The scientific director, Dora Muanda, has thus produced a series of video capsules to enable students and their parents to continue learning at home.

These capsules are based on the new science learning programs produced by the Ministry of Primary, Secondary and Technical Education with the PEQPESU. The first capsule is published today and I am sharing it with you here. This series of video vignettes is intended for students in grade 7 of basic education, i.e. 1st secondary, and their parents and teachers.😉

Call for proposals

If you also want to produce capsules for the Ministry of EPST and the Science and Technology Week, we invite you to download the official program you wish to treat on the Ministry website and to contact us in order to register and receive the protocol we have developed for this purpose.

We don't give up. And remember: one student at a time!

Science is fun, join us ! 😉

This post has first been published on LinkedIn. It has been translated in English by Afriscitech.

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