Keep calm and carry on.

By Kennedy Oulu, a Research and evaluation expert, and MEL Mentor for RELI Tanzania.

While you were in COVID-19 Lockdowns, learning indicators in Tanzania evolved.

So, while you were in ‘lockdown’, we identified the following emergence in priority learning indicators which may help  inform responses in other East African countries which are now re-opening schools.

Learning loss or gain?  There is significant learning loss especially in foundational literacy and numeracy skills, which can be measured through UWEZO learning assessment frameworks, by benchmarking previous assessment before covid-19 and immediately when schools re-open. They can also track learning gains.

LifeSkills critical? While pre-service teacher-training is not yet aligned to the competence-based curriculum,  in-service teachers struggle to shift their teaching methods. Efforts are focused on changing teacher pedagogies to be child centred and inclusive, however school reopening forced teachers to complete the curriculum, making it impossible to centre on the child when teachers had to teach to the exam.

Child safeguarding and resilience? Children, especially girls and children with disability were the hardest hit, with a proliferation of violence and abuse against children during -the pandemic school closure. It turned out that it is not only schools that are unsafe, homes are even worse. Beside the actual violence and abuse, the psychosocial effects and how it manifests itself in children learning are yet to be given serious thought. Whereas children are taught, teachers (and indeed parents) need skills to understand and provide psychosocial care to children, to build resilience and sustain meaningful lifelong learning.

Community/parental engagement in learning? When covid-19 took the school and teacher from the child, communities (and parents) not only realized that they have a role, but also that the child has a lot to learn from the parent. Engagement of communities in a way that builds their skills and responsibility to support children learning at home and school became urgent.

Structural deficiencies exist, and accountability for the right to education is a must. We realized that governments are ill-prepared. The curriculum resources were not tech-accessible, policies to expel pregnant girls from school remained and mechanisms for community and home learning had not even crossed our minds. Policies, investments and access to quality learning must be a priority.

Not that we have learned yet, but I do hope that we are forced to learn. 

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