Keeping Kids Learning During School Closures

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Tele-schooling in Mozambique

School may be closed in Mozambique, but each weekday young children stuck at home open their exercise books, turn on the TV, and start their lessons. But they’re not sitting quietly – these children are shouting answers back to the television, building game materials, and learning how to apply the exercises in their books in practical, active ways. They’re part of the new TELESCOLA program that engages Mozambican students in grades 1 to 3 using an experiential, play-based approach.

School closures due to COVID-19 left parents and teachers in Mozambique scrambling. 44% of Mozambique’s population is under 14, and quality education is crucial for their futures. The longer children’s education is interrupted, the more likely they are to fall behind on learning, and to drop out of school. And studies show that the longer children are out of school, the more likely they are to never return. A rapid response was desperately needed.

Mozambique’s government considered several options for remote education. Unlike Europe and North America, only one in five people in Mozambique have access to the internet, so shifting schooling online would only make it less accessible for most children. But radios and televisions are far more widespread, and a much better way to reach children. The Ministry of Education was confident that students from grades 4 to 12 could focus on a televised curriculum, but would very young children, in grades 1 to 3, actually be able to sit still and focus on the lessons?

That’s when the Ministry of Education reached out to Right To Play. Together, we collaborated to create radio and television programs that teach young children remotely by engaging them in active, experiential lessons. That’s how the nation-wide “TELESCOLA” program was born.

“We have heard from parents that TELESCOLA has really improved their ability to support their children’s learning from home during the crisis” – Daina Mutindi, Country Director, Mozambique

TELESCOLA uses interactive exercises and play to engage young children studying at home so that they stay attentive and absorb each lesson fully. Televised lessons now reach 1.2 million children in grades 1 to 3 each weekday, helping children at a critical time in their educational development to keep learning and stay on track for educational success.

TELESCOLA focuses on core academic skills like literacy and numeracy for young children, but also includes segments on gender issues, COVID-19, and public citizenship. Right To Play’s involvement ensured that girls were positively represented in the learning materials, to help push back on stereotypes that education is mostly for boys. The segments dealing with social issues were supplemented with local community radio broadcasts that have reached more than 223,000 children and 185,000 adults in Mozambique.

“The TELESCOLA program helps me to read more while I am staying at home… I like to be able to study from home and to sit and watch these lessons in the mornings.” – Benecia, 3rd grade student in Gaza Province

The television and radio broadcasts were just part of a larger system of remote education we helped the Ministry of Education establish. After each lesson was broadcast, local teachers would follow up with students. They would drop off homework and learning materials, and check in remotely using phones, door-to-door visits, or online tools where available. Along with material for students, local teachers also distributed information for parents on how they could help their children learn from TELESCOLA.

“Children staying at home are at risk of forgetting what they’ve learned. Thanks to the TELESCOLA program they can continue learning in these difficult times” – Albert, caregiver

How You Can Help Expand TELESCOLA’s Reach

The original run of TELESCOLA lessons was done in Portuguese, Mozambique’s main national language. But for many children, especially young children, Portuguese is a second language spoken mainly outside the home, one that they learn at school. For the upcoming school year, we are working on localizing the programs, adapting them into regional languages like Cichangana, which is widely spoken in Gaza Province. This will help children who have not yet acquired full fluency in Portugues -- often rural children at the highest risk of dropping out -- to avoid leaving school and falling behind their peers.

You can help us achieve this important goal, so that every child in Mozambique can benefit from the quality education they deserve. The more languages we can provide remote lessons in, especially for the crucial early grades where many children are especially vulnerable to educational disruption, the fewer children will drop out or fall behind in their education.

Our work on tele-schooling in Mozambique is part of the Gender Responsive Education and Transformation program. In 2018, Right To Play launched the Gender Responsive Education and Transformation (GREAT) program with the financial support of the Government of Canada provided through Global Affairs Canada. Active in three countries, Ghana, Mozambique and Rwanda, GREAT uses Right To Play's play-based learning approach to remove barriers to education, especially for girls, and to build teacher capacity to improve learning outcomes.