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Blog: Education, inequality & innovation in the time of COVID-19

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Daleen Botha & Takalani Muloiwa

Posted 2 months ago

The third EduCOVID TIG meeting, held on 22 of July 2020, was hosted by Benita Williams (Benita Williams Evaluations) and Takalani Muloiwa (Wits University) on the topic ‘Education, inequality and innovation in the time of COVID-19’.

The four key questions that were discussed in the breakaway sessions were as follows:

  • How can the sector support learners that do not have parental support at home?
  • How can remote learning better target the needs of disadvantaged learners?
  • What kind of performance indicators could be identified for the sector during these times?
  • How can you innovate with M &E to help address inequality?

Four participants in the zoom session shared some reflections from their coffee conversations.


Tikwiza Silubonde

It was apparent that in many cases, the ‘how’ of M&E work has changed considerably; how we collect data remotely, how we conduct monitoring activities, how we ensure that we are inclusive and do not marginalise groups of people, and how to ensure we do no harm or endanger the people we collect data from in any way. The adoption and use of internet-based tools to support M&E activities has been accelerated. Although some organisations were more ready than others, most have become open to ‘new ways of working. In some ways this lockdown has increased efficiency and enhanced, adaptability, collaboration, creativity, and problem solving.

Three insights:

  • The teacher learner connection is critical. Increased drop out of learners is a potential implication of the disconnect between the learner and the teacher that may result from school closures. Solutions should consider ways that continue to foster the relationship between the teacher and the child outside of the classroom. This necessitates ongoing teacher training and support, and utilising a variety of solutions (mobile phone, online, print material).
  • Schools are not only a site for learning. In addition to learning, schools are also a place of safety, a place to get a meal, and a place to interact with peers. As a result, It is important to consider the needs of learners, as well as their contexts when developing solutions for learning outside of the ‘normal school context.’ The safety and security of learners is another important consideration.
  • The psycho social impact of COVID-19 on both learners and teachers is an important consideration. There is a need for psycho social support for learners and teachers to deal with the emotional and psychological aspects of COVID-19.  


Daleen Botha

  • Guidance and supervision / support is important to assist learners and parents to set up and learning / working environment, motivate learners to work in a disciplined manner, keep them accountable and provide psycho social support on how to cope with all these changes. Guidance is important for both learners and parents. Tablets and laptops might not be the best way for all learners to move to online or remote learning. It is important to take the context of the learner into account. - It might not be a good approach for poor communities in a rural setting.
  • Examples of Performance indicators included both COVID -19 specific indicators as well as indicators used to track curriculum etc. The COVID-19 specific indicators need to monitor implementation of policies and plans. E.g. indicators about sanitation of schools, social distancing, masks, reporting of COVID-19 cases, availability of water (are water tanks refilled, usable). The quality of the material provided should also be included in the indicators.
  • M&E also need to track indicators linked to attendance of learners and teachers, curriculum coverage and the percentage completed learner assessments. This would be imperative to establish how much catch-up are still required at which schools at the end of the 2020 school year. We need to make sure no one is left behind.

Mayibongwe Manyoba

Education

  • There is a need to unpack the meaning of parental support. A clear understanding of different solutions for different situations. Need for learning materials as well as educational videos to support learning. Support structures are necessary to allow parents/guardians/caregivers to have a platform to interact and seek help where possible.

Inequality

  • Key considerations to be made around access/use of technology. Provision of resources including gadgets for online learning and data. Developing materials for learning within the home environment. The use of zero-rated sites to promote on line learning. There is need to provide clear guidance on the processes around online learning (including the use of technology).
  • Regarding the indicators, the lack of assessment data is a key component for the sector to come up with meaningful indicators. It will be of interest to develop indicators that account for the number of learners with access to remote learning in the country.

Innovation

  • There is need for one to understand their audience when thinking innovatively. Evaluation professionals need to play a bigger role when it comes to advocacy, especially on issues around accountability within the education sector. We need to have a clear understanding of the limitation of technology when working with disadvantaged groups. The identification of community networks is important for remote data collection. It is very important to understand ‘if our teachers are trained to teach remotely and work with digital platforms’.

Takalani Muloiwa

  • Schools need to routinely collect learner biographical information and resource information so that learner interventions are informed by an understanding of the needs of different learners.
  • The sector needs to identify ways of providing guidance to parents on how they can support their children even if they are not trained do so.
  • To address the access needs of disadvantaged learners, the sector should collaborate with the community stakeholders (community libraries and spaza shops) regarding the dissemination of free weekly newspaper resources for the different grades. These resources should be aligned with the school curriculum.

Follow @samea_za and #EduCOVIDtig on twitter for news about the next TIG meeting in August 2020.

Source: Theme 9 Final Report (Parker et al)

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