Distance Learning and pupil support at Patmos School during Covid-19 alert
On the 15th March, 2020 the Kenyan government, in response to the threat of coronavirus , ordered that primary and secondary schools be closed with immediate effect. The country was put in a partial lockdown after President Uhuru Kenyatta announced the closure of schools, and imposed sweeping travel restrictions.
The government had originally planned to re-open schools in late June. However, they have now announced that children will not be able to go back to school until September.
During this time of temporary school closure, as well as providing outreach support in the community in respect of food and water supplies, the Headmaster together with the teachers and school social workers have also continued to try and provide a holistic approach to ensuring the general well-being of the children. Teachers have also tried to ensure wherever possible that the children have sufficient revision and home work to do whilst the school is closed.
The pre-school children have been receiving written homework provided by the teachers in exercise books. The parents/guardians of the children are asked to attend at the school at certain times to collect the work. Once the exercises have been completed by the children the work is then returned to the teachers for marking and the parents are given the next set of exercises for the children to complete. Some of the teachers have also been able to send out some school work digitally via Whatsapp to the mobile phones of parents/guardians.
The middle and primary school teachers are setting questions for their pupils on each subject on the curriculum manually, the homework set is then duplicated on the recently purchased heavy duty photocopying machine so that each child in each of the grades has a hard copy. Prior to the installation of this machine which was funded by Yatima Outreach, the teachers were having to write out everything by hand multiple times. Children then collect the work from the teachers and once it is completed they return it to school for marking and for correction where needed. The children are seen by a teacher in groups of three so as to comply with the social distancing regulations. As well as the question papers, the children are also given supplies of exercise books, pencils and pens.
Teachers have been submitting the work covered to the Deputy Headmaster, Mr Aquines Sikuku, for evaluation. This has enabled him to then review the situation and have meetings with the teachers to design the best way forward with the Distance Learning program. During the time of school closure the emphasis has been on trying to ensure that as far as is possible all pupils are able to continue with some of their studies.
In this respect, the Headmaster reported that by the end of June that 169 out of a total of 174 children at Patmos School (97%) had been seen by a teacher, received guidance and instruction from them and had their home work assessed.
There have been many challenges during this period for the teachers in trying to provide a Distance Learning program in Mathare; many of the parents/guardians do not have smart phones and are not able to afford to buy the 'bundles' for their phones. For the children, working in isolation and therefore not being able to collectively work through exercises and share ideas and feedback has been a major challenge. Some children have needed encouragement to ensure the home work is completed on time and returned to the school. The social workers have throughout this period been instrumental in consistently following up with the children and their families to ensure the work is completed and taken to the school for marking.
The school social workers have also arranged meetings with some of the older girls at Patmos School so as to advise them on sex education matters and the risk of teenage pregnancy which has become a real concern for girls in Mathare especially during the pandemic. They have also facilitated regular distributions of sanitary towels to the school girls.
The school social workers are continuing to liaise with all the school children and their families in their home environment during the period of school closure. By keeping in close contact with the children they are in a good position to be able to quickly identify any concerns regarding the potential risk or abuse of vulnerable children.
To read about how the Headmaster and his school team have also been supporting the children and their families with food, water and soap