Ingrid Lewis and Su Corcoran
EENET and NAD’s home learning resources were translated into local languages and distributed in Somalia, Uganda, Zambia and Zanzibar in late 2020 and 2021. With the help of staff from partner organisations, families were introduced to the materials and provided with varying amounts of support to use them.
At the end of 2021, we conducted a small internal review. Research assistants from partner organisations conducted follow-up interviews and focus groups with a small sample of parents, caregivers, and teachers to find out the results of the project. EENET team members were also interviewed about their experiences of planning and implementing EENET’s first ‘emergency’ project. The review explored what went well, the challenges, what users thought of the materials, and key learning points for the future.
Here is a snapshot of some of the findings.
The project filled a gap in home learning support. In Zambia, for example, no other organisation responded as quickly or provided resources that did not require access to radio or television. Providing materials in local languages made them more accessible for families. In most contexts, families had little or no internet connectivity or electricity, so they welcomed printed materials.
Learners engaged with the materials, building on them to develop their own activities, such as making their own toys and games or creating small gardens. Children became friends through doing activities together. They used the materials to reach each other through sharing with their peers. On Zanzibar, for example, a learner with intellectual disabilities used the pictures as a guide to support the learning of younger children.
Children with disabilities who had not previously attended school used the materials, and their parents were inspired to support their learning. Some children took the materials to school (when they re-opened) so they could do the activities with friends during break times.
Parents reported that the materials were helpful, and that the activities had positively affected their children’s attitudes and behaviour towards education and learning. These were the only learning materials some families had. The materials helped parents realise that meaningful learning can still happen without school.
As a research assistant (RA) in Zambia suggested, parents used the activities themselves and enjoyed learning from them:
“They didn’t know learning at home could be fun, that it’s not only about exams”.
Some parents recognised that learning brings change and that the activities could help them do different things. Some even began to learn from their children. There was acknowledgement that learners are more likely to achieve when their parents are more involved, and that learning benefits the whole family. Parents recognised what their children were able to do, and understood that younger children could do the activities again as they grow. As another RA in Zambia explained, parents say that:
“Being part of this project has been really good for me, learning for me, it has made a mark. ‘Learning can be done at home’ beyond just helping the child with homework, recognising learning in many different ways.”
Time was a significant factor for parents who work, as they needed to use the materials in the evenings with their children. Some parents who could not read experienced difficulties using the materials after the initial orientation from the distributors. However, others felt they could use the pictures to interpret some of the activities. In some families, parents wanted to use the local language version while their children wanted to use the English one.
Printing the activity booklet in colour was expensive. In some contexts they were produced in black and white and some families felt this made the booklets harder to use.
This rapid, unexpected project, had a small budget, so distribution was targeted at a few communities and primarily at families of children with disabilities. Inevitably there was some dissatisfaction that the distribution was not more widespread, although every recipient was encouraged to share the materials with wider family, friends, and neighbours.
Parents who had not received the materials approached the RAs during the review process to ask for copies. There were also requests for other materials such as paper and pens. Teachers received requests for notebooks from learners wanting to do more writing and drawing in relation to the resources.
The activities were designed to be repeatable and adaptable, but some families felt they needed follow-up materials. Some also suggested that such materials should be distributed to schools as well. They felt children might value resources more when they also find them in the school context; and teachers could play a bigger role in supporting the use of home learning materials.
EENET learned many practical and management lessons about delivering educational materials in a crisis situation. The full report will provide details.
Overall, one of the main lessons is a reminder of how vital home learning is. Learning happens at home, not just when schools are closed but as part of every child’s learning journey. Much more work is needed to ensure that inclusive education systems understand that learning happens on a continuum from home to school.
Learning at home is not just a temporary back-up plan when going to school is impossible. It is essential alongside formal school-based learning. Every education system, especially those striving to be inclusive, should boost fun, low-stress learning at home, and connect home and school learning better, beyond simply giving children formal homework assignments.
The full evaluation report will be available on the EENET website in early 2022: www.eenet.org.uk/inclusive-home-learning/
EENET is grateful to the many people who assisted with the home learning survey, development and testing of the materials, and the project review. There are too many names to list here, but everyone’s hard work and dedication during the most challenging time was amazing. Thank you!
Ten-year-old Joshua from Uganda has autism and is hyperactive. He used to ‘disappear’ from home to hunt birds and play with friends. When his family received the home learning poster and booklet, Joshua looked at the pictures keenly and tried out some activities.
Inspired by the ‘counting game’ on the poster and in the booklet, he dug thirty-two holes under a mango tree to create a board game known locally known as “Ocero”. The game is played by two people and has sixty-four stones. At first, he would play with his mother and brother, and they helped him count, add, subtract and divide.
Now many children come from the neighbourhood to play and Joshua welcomes everybody
to the game.