Learning remains paralysed across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic, yet, for most children, education is the key to a brighter future. The situation is even worse for refugee children, most of whom begin school late, and for whom education is also the only hope out of the camps.
At the Daadab Refugee Camp in Northern Kenya, a local radio station, Gargar FM, is giving hope to children seeking an education.
“Young learners, especially those in the refugee camp, are more affected since they cannot access digital learning tools. Also affected are learners with special needs who cannot follow radio lessons,” said Mr Tukow Nuuh, a programme manager with Save the Children.
Children in Kenya are facing the greatest disruption to their education after schools were closed indefinitely nearly two months ago.
The Ministry of Education estimates that 16,528,313 learners are out of school, from early childhood development education to secondary school students.
But the situation in the camp is much worse. Here, at least 50 per cent the population comprises children, and more than 40,000 school-age children were already out of school, data from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Education Management Information System, respectively, show.
In a bid to keep the children learning, children’s welfare organisations, including Save the Children and UNHCR, are using the radio station to broadcast lessons to students.
But because most children at the camp are late starters, the education offered is non-formal, a crash course of sorts to help the students catch up with their peers. Different subjects are taught via the station for an hour twice a week, including maths, English, environmental studies, religious education and creative art.
“This is crucial in ensuring that they do not lag too far behind,” Mr Nuuh said.
A survey showed that about 60 per cent of the learners have radios and can tune in.
The programme also creates awareness about Covid-19 preventive measures and the channels for reporting suspected cases to the authorities.
The aid agencies have appealed to the Ministry of Education to urgently ensure that systems for remote learning are in place, as the most marginalised children have been hit hardest by the closure of schools.
Save the Children says priority should be given to children who cannot access digital learning tools - those from low-income households and in rural and marginalised areas, those with disabilities, and those in refugee camps.
“It will cost more if we don’t act now. We know from other public health crises that once older children lose access to education, they are less likely to return. This is also the case with the most vulnerable children, who end up in child labour, child marriage and facing other life-threatening situations,” Save the Children Director for Kenya and Madagascar Wang Le told the Nation.
“For younger children, even a few months of missed education can have long-term effects, requiring additional and intensive remedial efforts to catch up.”
Ms Le said other measures to help the children include supporting distance learning by making families aware of the radio lessons being offered by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development for formal learners, and supporting the recording of lessons for non-formal learners. The organisation is also working towards providing radios where necessary for continued learning, particularly in refugee camps, Nairobi’s informal settlements and arid and semi-arid counties in Northern Kenya.
“We are also providing remote counselling and psychosocial support for children and sensitising communities via mass media about the increased risks for children and how to protect themselves during the pandemic,” she added.
We will be leading back to school campaigns when the worst is over to make sure that the most vulnerable children return to, and stay in school,” said Wang Le.