Teachers also organized themselves to leverage their knowledge and expertise. Those who have experience with education radio during the Ebola epidemic, including those from private schools, trained other educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. They met in socially distanced small groups to learn together and support each other.
“We built education radio programs for literacy and numeracy for the early grade students. We also developed teaching manuals”, explained Dr. Staneala Beckley, Chair of Sierra Leone Teaching Service Commission in the Ministry of Basic and Senior Secondary Education. “Teachers decided to meet in small groups with appropriate social distancing to sit with those with radios, and follow along together and learn from group discussions of the lessons.”
Raising awareness and engaging stakeholders
To increase awareness about the radio programs, the country also ran a communications campaign leveraging social media, newspapers, advertisements, text messages, and announcements through community loudspeakers. Volunteers, civil society, religious groups, and the private sector were mobilized to spread awareness by playing sample lessons in their communities and widely sharing the broadcast schedules.
"We wanted to reach as many people as possible with our education radio lessons in the marketplaces, in the carpentry shops. We produced jingles in English and in Creole, the language of mass communication in the country", stated Dr. Staneala Beckley.
Covering the curriculum effectively has been challenging due to limited broadcast airtime availability, radio channels, and access to radio devices in households. Multi-grade lessons are engaging only to an extent, given the different pedagogical and lesson content needs of students across grades.
In addition, making the education radio program self-reliant to support multiple education radio lessons in a day has been difficult, since they need to broadcast programs that earn them revenue. It has also been challenging to measure impact, and plans are under development to partner with organizations that can support with this expertise.