Assina Kahamba shares how she and the teachers at Lycée Liziba adapted to online teaching to keep girls learning during COVID-19.
With 72% of the population living in extreme poverty, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has been categorised by the World Bank as one of the world’s poorest countries. To support the education of the girls in these communities, WONDER Foundation partners with Lycée Liziba, an all-girls private school in Kinshasa.
Assina, in charge of development and life learning at Liziba, shares her experiences of how the school adapted and found innovative ways of delivering education using technology, as well as voicing the challenges she faced.
Learning to adapt to online education during school closures
When the government announced a sudden lockdown on March 18th, most schools were left underprepared for online learning. While Assina and her team managed to deliver homework to their students during the first month of the lockdown, they knew it was not enough. “We wanted students to be able to study”, she explains.
Assina and her team designed an online learning structure that requires low-data consumption, knowing families do not have the funds to pay for much data. Out of 265 families, 40 have laptops at home, while the rest only have access to mobile phones.
The school therefore resorted to using WhatsApp, with teachers and parents being familiar with the app. They also used Eteyelo, a simple platform for online learning designed by an education start-up based in DR Congo.
With the help of all the staff, the school was able to create WhatsApp groups for each year group, where they could then share the logistical information such as the time, location, and content of each class. Assina and the other teachers start with a roll call at 8 am on Eteyelo, in order to share the learning material and links to YouTube videos throughout the day.
It takes a village – parents, teachers and students
The teachers at Lycée Liziba are enthusiastic learners and are able to support their students in this new venture. This “was quite amazing because everybody helped. Everybody wanted to succeed”, Assina adds.
However, she also acknowledges it has been a challenge to learn and teach everything through a mobile phone. Teachers have to grade student work through WhatsApp, and in turn, students have to access learning material through a phone.
The school is making the best of a bad situation though, through using this time to further build values in their students’ lives. Through writing to parents and talking about the values they would like their child to learn for life, for example.
One of the biggest challenges faced by teachers through this pandemic has been keeping students, parents and teachers engaged. This has been particularly difficult because COVID-19 has severely impacted many families from the school. Many have lost their livelihoods, which has led to higher stress levels among everyone.
Despite all the challenges, Lycée Liziba remained among the handful of Congolese schools continuing to deliver learning during the lockdown.
Together, the school has managed the monumental task of keeping their students learning during COVID-19. As a result, there is a sense of achievement in the air, and the school has been flooded by requests for new admissions.