Until the advent of COVID-19, which brought most countries’ economies, work life and schooling to an abrupt stop, we didn’t imagine that we could conduct an actual virtual graduation. Virtual learning? Yes. Thousands if not millions of students are already using virtual spaces to learn. However, virtual graduation had not crossed our minds.

A month away from our much-anticipated Stawisha 2019 cohort graduation due to take place in April 2020, we were faced with a new reality thanks to COVID-19.  

At Dignitas, we value teamwork. As an organization, we see every challenge as an opportunity. Under the guidance of our able director, Deborah Kimathi, we started having conversations around this event alongside other activities like coaching and teacher training that we, as an organization had previously been doing ‘in-person’. In the process, we acknowledged positive conflict, we empowered each other, and we saw possibilities.  So when the idea of a virtual graduation for our community school leaders came to the fore, the opinions from Dignitas staff members were varied. We had “the cannot happen” and “of course, it can happen” teams. Two weeks down the line and we had stormed, normed and agreed on this event. How did it begin?

Our monitoring and evaluation team hit the ground running, alongside the coaching team, in order to finalize on the endline data for our school leaders. As a way forward, we brainstormed on how our teachers could set up email addresses to enable us to send them virtual certificates. Did this cause confusion? Yes. But, when we assured our school leaders that after COVID-19 ends, they will receive their neat hard-copy certificates, all was back on track.  The coaching team came in and clarified the importance of being tech connected at this point and season in time. Apparently, COVID-19 has unleashed a power so huge on the transformation that technology has, a power that most of us, had little knowledge about. 

Thanks to Dignitas. I’ve learnt a lot. Behavior management practices have opened my eyes not only on learners but also on the teachers. Thank you Dignitas” 

Teacher Everline, El Shadai, Kayole 

Empowered, our school leaders were keener on Whats-App discussions and even Zoom calls. They no longer feared technology. On the 21st of May, the coaching team, having disbursed more than 200 certificates, was ready to take this event live. Our Platform? WhatsApp. The success levers? We had an agenda and a goal. Throughout the day, Kayole, Dagoretti, Huruma and Kiambiu coaches engaged school leaders with well formulated question prompts, celebratory anecdotes and reflective questions. As the day went on, more school leaders participated in the discussion on various Whats-App groups.

As the conversations went on, many school leaders were able to recall and emphasized on the key strategies that we had learnt over the one-year program. Others were grateful for the work that Dignitas had done. Many more were eager to join other programs organized by our organization such as the Dignitas Alumni Association. Here is what some school leaders had to say over the same. 

“I was apprehensive when I heard of a virtual graduation. I didn’t imagine it would be a good event, but as it turns out, it has been more than a success. I acknowledge that what they taught us was key in my growth. I am a better school head; I know the value of lesson planning and I constantly hold Professional learning communities in my school. “

Headteacher Ann Wamae: Dagoretti Cluster.

The highlight of the event? We did it. Was it a resounding success? Yes. Had we been able to document highlights around this to help inform future events? Yes. Had we fully leveraged on technology in the 21st Century? Definitely! Was this the best that technology can enable us do? Not yet. Is Covid19 still there? Yes. Has our work stopped in anyway? Not at all! A total of 220 school leaders graduated in the 2019 virtual graduation ceremony. On the graduation day, more than 170 school leaders participated in the Whats-App virtual event. As an organization, we are ready and continue taking on assignments and other bits of work as we work remotely. 

I join my colleagues in this noble cause to thank Dignitas group for molding us into effective and competent teachers. We are not the same teachers we were one year ago today. They have taught us so much. I particularly liked the strategies on creating learner centred lessons”

Rachael Apondi, The Ark Education Center, Huruma

Written by Mercy Munialo (Dignitas Leadership Coach)