During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, schools remained closed and where learning was taking place, it was primarily virtual. Virtual learning is not well embedded in Kenyan schools and this educational shift heavily impacted students in rural areas and slum settlements. With limited access to digital infrastructure such as smartphones, internet, and computers, students in these underserved areas could not continue their studies.
The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of virtual learning and understanding digital tools that enable this kind of learning. Virtual learning is no longer an option for a few schools with robust digital infrastructure but a requirement to guarantee access to quality education to achieve SDG 4 (Quality Education). In addition to virtual learning, there is a need to enrich practical subjects such as science with affordable tools to provide quality hands-on education to students.
AIM: Exposing learners to virtual learning and practical science concepts as well as training teachers on digital skills (Digital Literacy)
To address this gap exposed during the pandemic and as schools reopened, UTM with funding from National Geographic partnered with two schools in Mathare, a slum settlement in Nairobi, Kenya. We designed a 6-month after-school program to equip teachers with digital skills as well as expose teachers and students to virtual learning. Additionally, learners were introduced to practical science concepts through foldscopes which are paper microscopes. We collaborated directly with the teachers to integrate foldscope use into the lessons; and the students were able to see some of the concepts that they have only studied in class come alive, like the different structural components of leaves. This program also provided meals to learners and digital learning tools such laptop and broadband to teachers to enable them to use phones to do online classes.
There is a need to support teachers and learners in understanding how online learning technologies work, and design settings and resources for it. As the Competency-Based Curriculum in Kenya takes shape, introducing learners to practical lessons is critical especially to enable them to grasp science concepts and hence the use of foldscopes in this program.
Future iterations of this project include digital training for teachers to facilitate online classes and providing foldscopes to schools in underserved areas so that we can enhance science lessons for students with hands-on activities that bring the lessons on the page to life.
Target: Teachers and primary students in informal settlements
Funding partner: National Geographic
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