If you’ve been following closely, you’ll know that Dignitas responded quickly and effectively to COVID-19 school closures with our Leaders of Learning program which sought to keep the learning and well-being of vulnerable children on track.  An important element of the Leaders of Learning program was the Learning Packets that our team was developing and distributing on a regular basis to households who had no access to online learning.

In September 2020, we made a shift from producing our own workbooks to leveraging project based learning resources from Education Above All’s IFERB (Internet Free Education Resource Bank) – the IFERB is a bank of engaging and student-centered project-based learning (PBL) resources that can be completed with no technology requirements in low-resourced contexts designed to support learners during the COVID 19 pandemic.  We developed a partnership with Education Above All which saw them wonderfully support and equip our team to utilise these learning resources to support children’s learning during ongoing school closures.

Training from EAA was cascaded by our team to six superstar Leaders of Learning from amongst our Dignitas program alumni who had proven themselves able to lead their peers in the roll-out of new learning resources.  

We got to work contextualizing the resources, and rolled out a total of nine projects between September and December 2020.  52 school leaders and teachers from Kawangware and Dandora (Nairobi urban informal settlements) helped us to reach 1261 children between the ages of 4-11 years.  Some households received the learning resources and instruction through WhatsApp, whilst houses who did not have access to WhatsApp received hard copies.  The teachers used phone calls, audio instruction messages, and in-person support to help parents lead the project based learning activities with their children at home.  

They changed the mindsets of my children, for instance, making maths easy by drawing and measuring using body parts. Mathematics was made real. Measuring the house using available resources such as a stick made learning exciting. Generally the projects were practical and allowed learners to manipulate things.” (Parent, Nairobi)

99% of teachers reported that the resources were useful for the children, as it gave them opportunity to build skills in new and interesting ways.  Children reported that the projects were fun and engaging – while they explored animal parks, superheroes, architecture, and healthy eating, they were also developing their literacy and numeracy skills, and gaining 21st century skills such as communication; critical thinking and creativity. 

101 learners were assessed at pre and post implementation stage – 65% recorded an increase in their post-assessment scores, with an average 10% gain.  In addition, approximately 42% of children in the assessment group showed an increase their mastery of communication, creativity and critical thinking.

“The whole project was fun, enjoyable, and as a parent I learnt a lot and became part of the learning too since we had to work together with my child. The relationship with my child improved. The teacher and learner relationship also improved a lot.” (Parent, Nairobi)

Teachers hailed the project as helping children develop the skills to work independently, and away from the school environment.  They also said it strengthened parent and child relationships.  Dignitas Leadership Coaches were amazed as they received posters the children had made, or videos of their news reports – their gains in confidence, innovation and creativity clear to see.

I want to appreciate the Dignitas team and teachers for their sacrifice and care which they showed to our children during the pandemic. The IFERB projects were of great impact to me and my child. She learned a lot, and I came to realize that learning has no end. The projects promoted her creativity and imagination skills. I was also amazed how she completed the project activities which made me happy as a parent.” (Parent, Nairobi)

With schools now open, and children back in class, the Dignitas team are hoping to build on these new insights into project based learning.  Kenya’s new Competency Based Curriculum is built around the development of 21st century skills, and our school leaders and teachers are keen to integrate project based learning as a way of leveraging the curriculum to nurture competencies such as creativity, communication and critical thinking!  The Dignitas team will be developing resources to support these school leaders and teacher leaders with relevant training and coaching.  Watch this space to learn more!