When e-learning is not an option: overcoming educational challenges during the corona pandemic.
The covid-19 crisis has impacted our everyday lives in many different ways. Most of us had to reimagine and make changes to keep up with our daily routines and commitments. This also applies to education. Countries with the necessary resources reacted to the crisis by switching to online schooling. However, in some regions with limited to no access to the internet this is not a possibility. This has also been the case for the Semanyiah American School (SAS) in Senase, Ghana.
It created the big question of how education would continue during the pandemic. After some brainstorming, headmaster Mr. Patrick Benneh and founder Frederick Benneh of SAS decided to bring education to the pupils' homes by introducing schooling via radio.
While most families in rural Ghana don't have access to the internet or personal computers at home, radio is widely available and accessible. In case a family does not happen to have a radio at hand, information centers in most villages have big speakers that reach the majority of people. All of this created the opportunity for radio schooling.
SAS launched its radio schooling programme on the 1st of June 2020. Teachers create different lessons in the subjects of English, Maths and Science while students listen at home and participate by doing the provided exercises. Since there are only a few radio spots available, it is currently not possible to divide the courses in different grades. Hence the courses are targeted towards all ages. It starts with an introduction to all subjects at first and builds further upon this.
Of course this requires some involvement of parents who need to switch the radio to the right station and help their kids where necessary. One of the hurdles of radio schooling is the one way stream of information, which means that the teachers don't get to interact with the pupils directly. Although, the headmaster found a work around for this, which is letting the students call in their responses before the next lesson starts.
SAS is planning to make this programme permanent even after the crisis for pupils that cannot afford to attend school on a regular basis and eventually bring it to other villages as well. They are definitely not missing any motivation to make this happen, nevertheless financing it might be a bigger issue. The FM radios are charging 400 cedi (about 60 EUR) per month for 4 time slots a week, and the public radios cost 70 cedi (~10 EUR). To make this really happen they will mainly need to rely on donations.
Due to the limited time that the programme has been running, it is hard to measure its success as of now. Although, each time a lesson has aired an increasing number of people have called in with their questions or answers to previous radio classes. Furthermore, people working at the school have overheard pupils practicing at home with the radio set to the channel in passing their houses. Both serve as good indicators of the programmes' sustainability and are initial signs of good progress. If the radio schooling continues showing good results, the programme could not just be a short term solution during the pandemic but could also turn into a way of spreading education to people which otherwise would have little to no access to it.