Somalia: Distance learning offers a bridge to education continuity

The sudden school closures in Somalia left many children worrying about the continuity of their education during the pandemic. Read how GPE with its partner Save the Children is helping children stay on course with their learning while at home.

May 20, 2021 by GPE Secretariat
3 minutes read
A Somali student. Credit: Save the Children
A Somali student.
Credit: Credit: Save the Children

“I was worried about my teachers and classmates. If the school closes for a more extended period, they may choose to leave us and go to another town. I love my teachers and my favorite subject is Somali. Even though learning was disrupted, I have not been discouraged. I am optimistic that my dream of becoming a teacher will come true” says Sadiq*, grade 2 student (name has been modified due to children protection safeguards).

Nine-year-old Sadiq lives with his family in Mogadishu where he attends one of the schools supported by GPE in Somalia. In early March 2020, when the government closed schools to curb the spread of COVID-19, Sadiq was afraid that his education would be interrupted, jeopardizing his dreams of becoming a teacher.

However, a few weeks after the closure of schools, Sadiq was excited to find out that he could continue learning from home through an online learning platform launched by the government with GPE’s support. The online platform is hosted and managed by the Ministry of Education to ensure students from grades 1 to 8 in four federal member states and Banadir could still have access to lessons.

Sadiq’s father helped him access the online portal at home, proving the key role parents play in supporting their children’s learning. To complement the lessons from the portal, Sadiq also followed classes with the help of a textbook and by listening to recorded lessons from his father’s phone.

While Sadiq preferred being in the classroom and missed seeing his friends and teachers, the GPE-supported remote learning program allowed him to continue to focus on his studies.

The portal also offers audio lessons via podcast to support children who only have low internet bandwidth access at home. In addition to supporting the continuity of education during the initial wave of school closures in Somalia, the platform hosts child protection audio clips to ensure children are safe from online exploitation.

Alternative learning options keep learning going

“In the beginning, we were worried about what will happen to our students, but with this online and offline learning system, learning continued for many children, who now have access to learning while at home. With the support of the parent and schoolteacher remotely, I believe the learning experience will help children continue their classes during school closure.”

Najma Ali, schoolteacher

Given that no alternative learning options existed at the onset of the pandemic, GPE’s US$5.4 million emergency grant allocated in June 2020 helped the government develop and implement these alternatives, a critical support to keep students learning while at home. The new learning options included:

  • distributing more than 17,300 radios to vulnerable school children and learning materials to 5,000 students with no access to technology
  • providing radio and TV educational programs
  • giving textbooks to over 51,000 students in the Southern states (Banadir, Galmudug, Hirshabelle, Jubbaland and South West) and braille books and assistive devices to 150 children with disabilities
  • providing water and sanitation supplies such as liquid hand soap, hand sanitizer, water and hand washing facilities
  • giving financial incentives to teachers, in particular to female teachers and those in remote areas and emergency settings, as a temporary safety net during the pandemic.

These programs aim to ensure that all children - especially the most vulnerable - continued to learn during the pandemic. Furthermore, the online platform and alternative learning options will also help Somalia build a more resilient education system going forward.

This article was produced in collaboration with Save the Children office in Somalia.

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