School leaders uncovered.

By John Mary Vianney Mitana (PhD), Jean Mary Wendo, Jude Edward Matovu

The impact of Covid-19 has disrupted schooling globally, with 1.6bn learners out of school In Uganda alone, more than 15 million learners and 500,000 teachers are affected but it’s not all bad news. School leaders have a chance to drive permanent change.

By treating covid-19 as a short-term crisis an important opportunity to change schools and school systems for the better is being missed. Covid has given us the chance to lead differently, potentially and more effectively.

We can develop a better education system with teachers who adapt to challenges and take ownership of designing solutions to ensure that students keep learning.

Prior to Covid-19, the type of leadership most typically found in schools could be described as traditional, following the contours of role and position.  Now the educational challenges school leaders face and the entire landscape of school leaders has tremendously changed so much so that any school leader has to contend with issues related to teachers’ and learners’ wellbeing including that of families.

Reaching out to learners and their families for support to ensure the continuity of learning is a key aspect that school leaders have to work with. Yet, these school leaders no longer rely on the traditional mode of executing their activities which always relied on formal physical meetings. The school leadership has now moved to a two-dimensional space, spending endless hours on Teams, Zoom or Google Meet – even in the  most remote areas.

 This inspired us at LGIHE to engage school leaders in a systematic reflection about their practice through a supportive coaching mechanism for their professional development. We know that when teachers learn collaboratively, and share expertise at a rapid rate, it helps them adjust to the circumstances effectively.

We used a training manual developed by Global School Leaders (GSL) through a collaborative Memorandum of Understanding. We provided mentorship to school leaders on three major aspects:

  1. preparation for school reopening including school and staff preparation, managing wellbeing and community support;
  2. technology for learning and management which included tools for communication, tools for learning and tools for management and;
  3. emergency remote and blended teaching.

Preliminary results indicate that when school leaders are supported, they are able to support their teachers to reach out to learners and their families. Most importantly, it also indicates that teachers and learners need more than technical support. They need emotional support to navigate the effects of Covid-19.

“Through this collaboration, I have learned that we must deliberately listen to these children and provide mental and social-emotional support.” Joseph, Deputy Headteacher.

“ I personally connected with Biology students through a Whatsapp group. Students would ask questions and this gave me the opportunity to offer academic and psychological support, connecting with teachers and retaining a community of learning” – Brother Nema, Secondary School Teacher.

School leaders in Uganda have been able to refocus their leadership strategies to maintain the learning community – school leaders, teachers, students, and parents. This learning community was a source of inspiration and a point of peer psychosocial support for one another.

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