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EDUCATION: Mbarara pre-school boss rallies parents, children to embrace online learning

Ms Ritah Tendo Nagwanja, the owner and Director at Pekito Childcare and kinder, a pre-school and Nursery in the heart of Mbarara disclosed how she remodelled to online classes.

As the education sector continues to hang in balance subsequent to the closure of schools and institutions as one on the measure to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

In his March 18 address on COVID-19, President Museveni sanctioned the closure of all schools and other institutions effective March 20 for 1 month.

“It is wise that we temporary remove these concentration points to prevent the spread of coronavirus. All these institutions, without exception, should close so that we deny this virus high concentration. We don’t want the virus to find dry grass ready for ignition,” Mr Museveni said.

This was later retracted subsequent to the advisory offered by Health experts thus evoking the suspension until June 4 for finalists and candidate

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the government permitted a resumption of private and public transport for May 26 and June 4 respective and slapped a 30-day extension of reopening of schools and institutions.

“I had talked about opening schools after June 4, but we have further studied this with the scientists and the eventual decision was to delay. We have 1.4 million children in these candidate classes and finalists. We don’t have enough testing kits for testing those numbers every two weeks,” Museveni said.

In efforts to give inclusive feel of the impact of COVID-19 on the education sector, this website engaged a Pre-school proprietor and director to share how her institution handling the situation

Ms Ritah Tendo Nagwanja, the owner and Director at Pekito Childcare and kinder, a pre-school and Nursery in the heart of Mbarara disclosed how she remodelled to online classes.

Pekito Childcare

Parent guides the child through an assignment

With an enrolment of over 60 children between 6months and 6 years, Ms. Nagwanja had to close her school following the directives leaving her staff hanging in balance with no income to be generated amid the lockdown.

“I am still locked down until schools open. I am the most non-essential service provider right now given the new extension as issued by the government,” Ms Nagwanja jokes about the lockdown.

“This corona virus-related disruption has given many educators and Parents with school-going children time to re-think the way we have been handling the sector,” Nagwanja expressed.

Nagwanja revealed that the wake of the pandemic and its jab on the economy especially the education sector left her no option but to step up. – Going online!

‘We are currently doing online teaching for the safety of our children and keeping them abreast of the curriculum. and I have also got a few teachers to conduct the classes – at their homes -at a fee,” Nagwanja revealed.

Pekito Childcare and Nursery school lessons are conducted on Zoom and WhatsApp under the guidance of parents and teachers,

Nagwanja revealed that the move to go only equally important to ensure the children are learning whilst the teachers are able to put something on the plate.

“A percentage of the funds paid goes to the teachers and the rest to the account to keep the school afloat. So the children are receiving the service and teacher earning income” said a tech-savvy Nagwanja.

Asked how she was able to rally the support of the parents of the initiative, Nagwanja revealed that she engaged the Parents and children on the new change at Pekito Childcare.

“I sold the idea and modus operandi to the Parents and some of them picked interest whilst others felt it was a waste of their money especially during the lockdown as most of their businesses had halted operations.” Ms Nagwanja stressed.

“The children love new technology. They know the teachers. These are the same teachers who were teaching them before COVID-19 lockdown, so it was deliberate to have the support of the stakeholders,” Ms. Nagwanja added.

Barely two weeks into the lessons, 40 of our 56 parents have subscribed to the initiative.

Asked on the progress and benefits Pekito Childcare has relished, Ms Nagwanja highlighted safety of the children remains paramount, affordable fees, among others, and she has no regrets remodelling.

“Pekito Childcare is doing well, with less stress, especially since half payment, is filed after two weeks, and then the other half after the third week. So parents are not inconvenienced and teachers are doing a wonderful job.” Ms Nagwanja revealed.

The IT graduate turned Education entrepreneur revealed that she was looking for more teachers to hire to give the learners adequate attention and the demand was going up

“We are now looking for more teachers to over more attention to the children’s learning to ensure better service quality,” Ms Nagwanja intimated.

Education Sector and post-COVID-19

On the post COVID-19 times, Nagwanja shared insights on the new wave that will hit the education sector

Unlocking technology to deliver education

“The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in educational institutions across the country being compelled to suddenly harness and utilize the suite of available technological tools to create content for remote learning for students in all sectors,” a determined Nagwanja shared.

“Educators across the country are experiencing new possibilities to do things differently and with greater flexibility resulting in potential benefits in accessibility to education for students across the country,” she added.

The educationist revealed that these were new modes of instruction that have previously been largely untapped.

Recognition of teachers’ efforts

Deliberating on the level of responsibility, Nagwanja acknowledge that the COVID-19 will see parents start appreciating the teachers more as they continue with home-learning

“I personally believe that our stake very many parents especially those with children in Early Childhood Development (Daycare and Nursery schools) appreciating the role of teachers more than they did before the covid-19 pandemic lockdown. It has not been easy to teach these young ones from home.

Right now, most parents are involved in their children’s class work and academic progress since they are now studying from home. Parents have been able to get to learn their children’s weakness in the different learning areas.

Nagwanja revealed that parent as calling Pekito to send more classwork and for guidance in the different learning areas for the children.

“I am sure the parents’ involvement in their children’s class work is something that will remain even after the COVID-19 period.

Online learning in Africa

UNICEF data reveals that in 71 countries worldwide, less than half the population has internet access. Yet nearly three-quarters of governments in 127 reporting countries are using online platforms to deliver education during the pandemic.

UNICEF reported that in 40 of the 88 countries with data, children living in urban areas are twice as likely to have a TV than their rural counterparts with the largest disparity found in sub-Saharan Africa.

“Access to the technology and materials needed to continue learning while schools are closed is desperately unequal. Likewise, children with limited learning support at home have almost no means to support their education. Providing a range of learning tools and accelerating access to the internet for every school and every child is critical”, said UNICEF Chief of Education, Robert Jenkins.

Education experts have already warned that gains made in increasing access to learning in the previous decade are at risk of being lost or even reversed completely.

Last month, UNICEF announced a new partnership with Airtel Africa aimed at providing children with access to remote learning.

Under this partnership, UNICEF and Airtel Africa will use mobile technology to benefit an estimated 133 million school-age children currently affected by school closures in 13 countries across sub-Saharan Africa during the COVID-19 pandemic.

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