Teacher On The Bike Keeps Pupils Learning Amidst The Pandemic
With COVID-19 raging and threatening to spread like bush fire, schools across the country were among the first casualty of what would later turn out to be the longest school closure in Kenyan history since independence. As weeks rolled into months, fear and anxiety began to mount among parents over a possibility of a whole academic year lost.
At that point government did not seem to have a clear way forward and there was talk of online learning, partial school re-opening among others.
Over 60% of Kenya’s population lives in rural areas with little access to electricity, internet connectivity or even ownership of things like smartphones, are still at it’s the lowest.
Within months into the lockdowns and school closure, everyone in Nairobi and other towns had transitioned to some form of online learning to ensure that children remain engaged with school work. While this was good, it would actually widen the gap in access to education between those with privilege to access things like smartphones, computers and internet- who happens to be either middle income earners or the very rich- and those without such access who happens to be the very poor.
Thinking how best to support the over 700 Children in their 3 schools, IVTG, launched a bold initiative termed Teacher on the Bike Initiative. This initiative sought to deliver learning materials and assignments to children who had no access to online learning tools. The teachers were to cycle around the villages visiting each learner, giving homework, marking previous assignments and generally keeping each learner engaged.
Within the first two months, over 200 visits had been made and over 600 assignments issued and marked and by December 2020 over 1700 visits were complete with over 3500 assignments having been given and marked. But there was something more, teachers become a source of useful information about the pandemic to parents and families. They were also able to gather information about issues affecting children for instance gender-based violence, excessive child labour, lack of food among others.
Teacher on the bike unlocked and changed how the learners in IVTG relate with their teachers and made parents to embrace education of their children. One child said “ I feel very happy when our teachers come to visit, they bring homework to us and they also encourage us very much” Another one said- “If it was not for our teachers visiting us, I was already thinking of never going back to school ever again. But when they started visiting, they encouraged me and also spoke to my parents about giving me too much work without allowing me time to study and do my homework. I am very happy”