School Leaders are pillars of our communities, not just leading schools, but community leaders in their own right.  Since school closed in March 2020, Dignitas has been working to equip, empower and support our School Leaders as new Leaders of Learning for this current global crisis.  Equipping and supporting school leaders has been critical action for children in crisis.

All Dignitas School Leaders had previously benefited from Dignitas training and coaching curriculum that covers Mindsets, Emotional Intelligence, Leadership Style as well as the critical levers of Instructional Leadership, Learner Engagement and Classroom Culture. This laid an ideal foundation for them to be further equipped to be community based champions of well-being and learning for children as the COVID19 crisis unfolded.

Dignitas piloted this program in Kawangware and Dandora, both urban informal settlements in Nairobi in which Dignitas has well established cohorts of school partners.  The Dignitas team recruited a pilot group of 61 Leaders of Learning, including both school leaders and teacher leaders from current and past Dignitas cohorts.

The selected Leaders of Learning went through orientation, including familiarization with the digital training and coaching tools.  We are extremely grateful to Synthetic and Team4Tech who designed and supported the piloting of our digital training and coaching tools.  We also deeply appreciate a donation of devices from Safaricom Foundation that ensured each of these Leaders of Learning was equipped with tools they need to keep children safe and learning

The Dignitas team also worked extremely hard and fast to design the training and coaching curriculum for the Leaders of Learning.  The curriculum was designed in response to the question, “What mindsets, skills and resources does a school leader or teacher leader need to support children during school closures?”  Content was created that would equip and empower these leaders to protect the learning and well-being of children at home.

With content and delivery tools in the final stages of design, the Leaders of Learning program design began to take shape.  It represented a pivot from in-person training and coaching to remote, largely digital, training and coaching.  This has called on the team to curate new methods of engagement, community building, trust building, training facilitation and coaching support.  Looking back at the past four months, training and coaching evaluations show that leaders report a 48% knowledge gain, and competencies related to dealing with trauma, parental engagement and leveraging distance learning resources are rated at an average of 70% across leaders.

The Dignitas team recognized that in this season of crisis, there would be some additional interventions needed to keep children safe and learning.  In partnership with our school leaders, 262 of the most vulnerable households were selected to benefit from a feeding program – we focused on single parent and grandparent led homes, where the main breadwinner had lost their source of income.  Our baseline household survey indicated that 79% of families had lost all pre-covid sources of income, so the need was huge.  Each of the 262 households identified for support has received monthly distribution of food and sanitary products, accompanied by a small cash transfer to help them meet additional health or well-being needs.  In addition, more than 500 children were also gifted notebooks, pencils and other stationery items to aid learning at home.

Finally, each of the children benefiting from the Leader of Learning household support has received to date, five volumes of Dignitas Learning Packets.  These packets are curriculum aligned literacy and numeracy workbooks, designed to keep learning on track. Dignitas Leadership Coaches, all trained and registered TSC teachers have been working tirelessly with a group of volunteers to develop this resource.

As we saw the success of the pilot program, we extended it in partnership with others to new communities.  Further, Dignitas remains committed to supporting the cohorts of school leaders enrolled for 2020 programming pre-covid.  The intention of our originally planned programming was to build the capacity of school leadership teams to deliver improved quality of learning, and this continues to guide our current and future activity as we engage them in Leaders of Learning.

In the coming week, we’ll be sharing stories from the children and families supported by our Leaders of Learning, and more data that speaks to the positive impact of their work.  Get in touch to find out more or to support!