Since the COVID-19 crisis hit Kenya mid-March, the Dignitas team have been extremely busy.  You may have already read our post highlighting the beginning of our plans, and this update as we began to think about how best we could support children in marginalized communities whilst schools are closed.

As I type, our amazing team is now supporting 300 School Leaders and Teachers, 30 Trainers, and almost 6,000 households in Nairobi (Kawangware and Dandora), Kakamega, Malindi and Embu.  Here’s the highlights of the process so far:

  • We now understand more about the challenges children and families in marginalized communities are facing.   Our recent survey demonstrated that 79% of households in our communities currently have no household income and, understandably so, education is third in their list of most pressing concerns, after food and nutrition, and household finance.  For the 83% who did list education as a pressing concern, there are other barriers – only 35% of parents have completed secondary education, and 71% of those struggling say they don’t have access to learning resources.
  • We’ve developed and tested digital training and coaching. Our new Chat Bot is now up and running, allowing our Community Champions to access mini-training modules and toolkits to support them to deal with trauma and anxiety, to engage parents, and to support learning and well-being at a household level.  Our ‘Whats-App’ Communities of Practice are now vibrant places of peer learning, sharing, and collaboratively finding solutions.  As well as the 300 School Leaders and 30 Trainers currently in our COVID-19 response program, we are working with the 366 School Leaders who make up our four 2020 cohorts enrolled in our school partnerships before the COVID-19 crisis hit.  We made a commitment to them early in the year, and are working hard to deliver on that commitment despite the challenges of the current season.
  • We’ve partnered with some amazing organizations to leverage broader expertise, reach and resource. We deeply appreciate our thought partners, action partners, and resource partners who’ve helped to bring our COVID-19 response to life.  It would not have been possible without support from Global School Leaders, Safaricom Foundation, Cosaraf Foundation, Synthetic, Team4Tech, and the amazing efforts of our young supporters at Music Beats Covid!
  • We are deeply moved and motivated by the passion and commitment of our School Leaders and teachers. They have enthusiastically signed up to support their learners, and been so grateful for the support that enables them to do so.  You can read more from Community Champions like Lilian from Kawangware, who says, “I want to do my best to support learners who look up to me for guidance. Dignitas is empowering us with skills and resources, we in turn continue to empower learners during this difficult period. I’m happy that I have an opportunity to do something.”  Our recent survey of more than 200 School Leaders highlighted that 70% of School Leaders believe it is their responsibility to support learner’s well-being, yet 68% recognize this as their biggest challenge during school closures.  School Leaders and teachers are keen to act, but need guidance and support to do so.

We have also collaborated with others to ensure the most marginalized children are not forgotten during this crisis.  We worked with our friends and colleagues at RELI to develop a list of eight recommendations to cater to children most often left behind.  We also partnered with others to host a special consultation between children from across the country and the National COVID-19 Education Response Committee, so that their voices could be heard.  It was clear that children value their schooling, but are worried about the current health crisis and their own safety when returning to school.

Please do get involved and help to fund this urgent response here – you can give online or via MPesa.  From as little as $12, you can support a family in need.  If you’d like to volunteer time or skills, and get involved in other ways please do reach out hereWe deeply appreciate your support for these Community Champions as they work tirelessly to keep children safe and learning.