Djibouti: An opportunity to transform education through enhanced sector dialogue during the COVID-19 crisis

Since March 2020, the Djibouti Ministry of Education and National training, together with GPE and other partners have been working to find solutions to address school closures due to the COVID-19 crisis. Here is an overview of the results obtained so far.

January 12, 2021 by Souad Hamlaoui, Secrétariat du GPE
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5 minutes read
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Mothers have advocated throughout neighborhoods to make sure all the students can get back to school.
Mothers have advocated throughout neighborhoods to make sure all the students can get back to school.
Credit: Abdi Dirir / Ministry of Education, Djibouti

Since March 2020, the Djibouti Ministry of Education and National training (MENFOP), together with GPE and other partners - World Bank, USAID, WFP and UNHCR - have been working to find solutions to address school closures due to the COVID-19 crisis.

With the country facing a high risk of COVID-19 transmission and 5,866 confirmed cases as of January 11, the government took the first step in establishing the Djibouti COVID-19 Preparedness and Response Plan and formed a crisis committee to coordinate multisectoral efforts, including measures to limit the spread of the virus.

Thanks to continued dialogue between the government and the partners in the local education group meetings, measures were launched to ensure learning continuity, including a multiple-channel approach to distance learning to ensure pedagogical support to students: daily courses through television and radio, virtual classes using Google Classroom and Classera, as well the distribution of booklets and paper materials.

The focus is on vulnerable children, including children living in remote areas, refugees, and girls, particularly as studies show that these children are at higher risk of dropping out the longer they are out of school.

Ensuring an all-around approach to students’ support

As the MENFOP was implementing its preparedness efforts, it became aware that members of civil society, including communities, parents, and parent associations, would have a unique role to play and would be “privileged partners” in ensuring not only learning continuity during school closures, but also a safe return to school once schools reopened.

“Djibouti’s education system can’t be transformed without the vision of the parents. Prioritizing parents and parents’ associations is one of the challenges set by the Minister of Education and Professional Training, Moustapha Mohamed Mahamoud,”

stressed Abdi Dirir Guirreh, Director General Education, MENFOP, who was interviewed and contributed to this blog.
Parents' participating at a meeting between the Minister of Education and school stakeholders. Credit: Abdi Dirir/MoE
Parents' participating at a meeting between the Minister of Education and school stakeholders.
Credit: Abdi Dirir/MoE

Following the closure of schools on March 23, 2020, and the need to quickly transition to distance learning, MENFOP sought the support of the parents’ association (APE), who are also members of school management committees. In the COVID context school committee members have been playing a key role within schools and as advocates for students’ rights.

To ensure students connected to the lessons on radio and television daily, MENFOP established a WhatsApp network as a resource for parents, with the schedule of the TV and radio programs. This way, they could monitor their children learning.

MENFOP used the network to communicate with parents in different regions, including Djibouti Ville and the five regions of Tadjoura, Ali-Sabieh, Obock, Dikhil and Arta.

For families that did not have enough data, MENFOP, with support from a USAID financed project, was able to provide additional data to parents. The ministry also provided data to vulnerable students who did not have access to TV or radio to ensure their access to these resources on mobile phones.

The Minister of Education, Moustapha Mohamed Mahamoud, presenting the new partnership framework to school stakeholders. Credit: Abdi Dirir/MoE
The Minister of Education, Moustapha Mohamed Mahamoud, presenting the new partnership framework to school stakeholders.
Credit: Abdi Dirir/MoE

GPE provides emergency funding

The GPE US$3.5 million accelerated grant to Djibouti, approved on June 26, 2020 and titled “Education Emergency Response to COVID-19,” is being implemented by the World Bank as grant agent.

The grant supports the MENFOP and its partners to implement the government plan to respond to the COVID-19 crisis on the education sector.

In addition to providing children access to quality remote learning, the grant supports capacity building for teachers, pedagogical advisors and inspectors. MENFOP opened schools in August 2020 to give teachers and school directors training and professional development and help them adapt the learning content to the different needs of students, especially since the transition to distance learning was introduced relatively quickly.

Assessing learning loss to better support students

As part of the government’s response plan, the MENFOP rolled out a diagnostic of all students to assess the level of learning during distance learning as well as to mitigate learning loss, especially for vulnerable students, including refugees and girls.

Vulnerable children also benefited from meals at school during school closures to ensure their return to school later, and learning support were set up in villages where neither radio nor television were available, while respecting health safety measures. In addition, MENFOP offered students who lagged behind refresher lessons starting in September, when schools reopened.

The GPE grant supported the MENFOP in equipping primary schools and lower secondary classrooms with water and sanitation infrastructure and in rehabilitating latrines before students came back to school. Learning kits were provided to students in public and refugee schools.

Another GPE grant of $70,000 managed by UNICEF was made available early in the pandemic for a quick response following school closing. It supported, with additional financing, distance training organized by the Training Center for Basis Education Teachers and the provision of laptops to trainers.

Furthermore, UNICEF helped MENFOP launch communication campaigns to raise awareness of students, parents and the broader community (police, civil society, regional administration, neighborhood councils, notaries, and locally elected representatives) of COVID-19 risks and prevention methods, as well as sensitize and equip the community with skills to be more involved in their children’s learning and to ensure children’s safe return to school.

With the risk that vulnerable children, including children living in remote areas, refugees and girls, don’t return to school, the ministry relied on parents, district councils and communities through a back-to-school campaign and used the MENFOP online tool “ODK collecte” in schools to track student absences or drop-outs.

Support to government’s plan brings results

A recent report by the World Bank and MENFOP about the implementation of the GPE grant highlights three important impacts of the program:

  1. Support to online learning has been satisfactory with 86% of students benefiting from distance learning, primarily on TV, of which 45% are girls, 18% live in remote areas and 5% are refugees.
  2. The return to school has been smooth thanks to a back-to-school campaign implemented with the support of UNICEF: The return to school has benefited from the conjunction of several factors, notably the parents and the communities’ support to their children.
  3. Remediation measures for learning loss are showing positive results and the system is welcomed by parents and teachers. 100% of students who enrolled in primary and lower secondary schools were assessed and MENFOP is offering remedial classes to students demonstrating high levels of learning loss and looking at other strategies to support learning.
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Middle East and North Africa: Djibouti

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Merci pour tout ce que vous faites pour améliorer le système éducatif surtout durant cette douloureuse période de Covid-19.

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