Globally, over 1.5 billion children and youth have been taken out of school globally due to the COVID- 19 pandemic. Data indicates the extreme impact the pandemic will have on student learning worldwide. Those in low-income countries will be hit the hardest, as governments have been less able to implement remote learning services and provide assistance to teachers. Although closures are a temporary shift in schooling for some, for many, they will result in the end of their education. During this time, many organizations are protecting students’ rights to learn through various forms of radio-literacy programs.
Radio literacy programs are not new for Creative Associates, an organization working to develop communities that allow individuals to overcome hardships and lead fulfilling lives. In collaboration with USAID Northern Education Initiative Plus program (NEI Plus), children are able to continue their education and improve reading skills in Sokoto and Bauchi states. Tapping into its broad network of teachers, religious leaders, and government representatives, NEI Plus is able to spread the word on their distance learning programs. As the programs are advertised on government-run radio and sent to over 20,000 WhatsApp contacts, Creative Associates feel confident in its tune-in rates. The Deputy Chief of Party for NEI Plus, Nurudeen Lawal, believes radio lessons like this may actually complement other learning initiatives and can continue to serve children beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since the closing of Ghanaian schools in March, Pencils of Promise (PoP) has developed a radio literacy program of their own to ensure quality education for all out-of-school children. Established in 2008, PoP has run on the idea that on the ground staff and local participation is a must when creating sustainable and collaborative relationships in local communities. Weeks after the initial lockdown, lessons on television programs would run, but only in homes where satellite dishes are available, internet connectivity is accessible, and digital learning devices are affordable. The reality of the situation, however, is that the majority of families in PoP’s partner communities do not fit into this demographic and have very limited means. Four teachers from partner schools, along with a training officer from the Keta Municipal Education office worked together to design 18 English lessons that aligned with those of the government. Taking into account that not all communities have radios, the lessons are also played at ten different information centers. Days before the lessons air, coaches are sent to announce the program at the centers.
Due to the pandemic, BRIDGE has had to fast track their communities of practice into virtual and radio learning spaces. Through their efforts to develop connections and foster collaboration, BRIDGE works towards the goal of promoting education improvements in South Africa. Although when schools initially closed and many students were able to maintain learning through WhatsApp and Edmodo, some students reside in lower-income areas, many without electricity. Similar to other organizations, BRIDGE worked with the Vuleka School to introduce a radio literacy program, which then spread to other regions of South Africa.