Overcoming the digital education divide

19 May 2020 | Education

Windhoek • [email protected]

To help parents bridge the stark digital obstacles induced by the school shutdowns, a Goreangab informal settlement kindergarten with the help of a non-profit has since April offered a much-needed education lifeline to parents and their young children.
“The epidemic affected many of the parents here very badly. But one thing they are happy about is that since the pandemic came, we were only closed for one week.”
Since then, parents of the 85 pre-school children enrolled at the Kid-Care Kollege (KCK) kindergarten in Goreangab informal settlement receive weekly learning kits in addition to food vouchers.
Since the start, the KCK's remote education programme received support from the Development Workshop of Namibia (DWN).
“The parents are grateful that their children continue to learn and on top of that, they also receive nutritional food every week,” Mateus Johannes, the founder of KCK said.
While some schools are able to offer digital education, many families living in informal settlements either lack access to digital platforms or lack the funding to be able to participate in online learning or both.
“One thing I know about children, they don’t need much. Any little bit of help they appreciate. The same with parents," Johannes stressed.
KCK principal and pre-primary educator Germana Shaningwa says the weekly education programme requires the teachers not only to design and hand out materials but to ensure parents understand the content. Moreover, teachers ensure they share the latest health and safety updates and regulations to keep the community informed.
The materials are marked each week and parents given feedback when they fetch the next week’s material.

When Covid-19 struck, the DWN changed focus from an ongoing library project they had launched at the KCK and other kindergartens last year. “There was a lot of talk about e-learning that kids should learn at home. The question was how would kids and their parents do this in the informal settlements,” Hilma Weber of the DWN said.
The DWN has since begun to expand the kindergarten outreach programme to other kindergartens in the Samora Machel and Moses //Garoëb constituencies, based on the blueprint of the successful pilot programme at KCK.
By last week, twenty more kindergartens in these two constituencies had launched similar initiatives. The DWN receives technical support from the UNDP and the European Commission, and financial support from the Botnar Foundation and Interteam.
Kindergartens are supplied with activity and learning materials, stationery and food vouchers.
Weber underlined that the parents are appreciative “that their children are able to continue learning at home” and added that the food vouchers off “major relief for many families.”
The DWN’s overall mission is to reach 135 kindergartens both in Samora Machel and Moses //Garoëb, in addition to Khomasdal kindergartens, that is aimed at reaching about 5 000 children.

Moses Kahitji, whose young son Isak joined KCK early this year, says the pandemic hit hard in the informal settlements, with many who relied on the informal economy suddenly shut out of an income.
“I lost my job because of this coronavirus. We were not prepared for this. But KCK is really helping us. They help with education for Isak and also to provide some food.”
Kahitji says a “hungry kid creates stress. Of course you are worried. So KCK helps. And the materials also help his mindset, and to build his mind.”

Johannes founded KCK because he recognised the need for a quality pre-primary school that caters for toddlers aged one to pre-schoolers aged six in Goreangab.
“As a secondary school teacher, I realised how important early education is. Those children who never went to pre-primary school, they have difficulties to learn. So the children who come here, their minds are already stimulated at a young age, which has a very important impact on later learning.”
In 2019, KCK opened its doors with a full-time nanny living on the premises, tasked to care for the youngsters whose parents have to leave home in the early morning hours for work and can only come home long after the normal pre-school closed. Then, when school opens, the nanny rests, until closure, when she takes over again.
Johannes says his primary source of joy “is seeing kids learning”.
Johannes takes pride in the kindergarten, which consists of three classrooms, a communal room, two bathrooms, a vegetable garden and the nanny’s living quarters.

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