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As Bangladesh faces continuing lockdown, it is crucial to ensure learning continues for children, that they have proper information about the virus and that they are safe and feel supported.
COVID-19 has forced large-scale closures of schools across the world. Over 90% of students worldwide have been cut off from a face-to-face classroom education. Educational institutions across Bangladesh have been closed since 16 March to minimise the risk of infection. Learning has been disrupted for some 30 million students.
Lockdowns across the country have caused economic shocks to millions of families who have lost their daily source of income. Children are often the most vulnerable as their families deal with the stress of uncertainty, and the unfamiliar circumstances of lockdowns in their areas.
BRAC is committed to ensuring that no child is deprived of their right to education, through:
Supporting the government to ensure that learning continues for all students in primary and secondary levels in Bangladesh
BRAC education programme is working closely with the Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education and the Ministry of Primary and Mass Education to support broadcasting primary and secondary school classes on TV.
BRAC, among other organisations, have contributed to developing lesson plans and content, and provided resource trainers to conduct classes and groom teachers. We are closely observing the effectiveness of the programme to further inform the national strategy.
Read more: COVID-19: Update from Asif Saleh (8 May 2020)
Piloting remote learning through basic phones for students in BRAC schools
On a trial basis, teachers of our non-formal schools in four areas in Bangladesh have been conducting classes in group calls of 3-4 children with their parents.
These virtual classes, conducted twice a week, are currently reaching more than 3,700 students of 204 BRAC schools (as of 5 May). By the end of May 2020, 2,762 schools (Class 5) will be conducting classes over the phone, reaching nearly 83,000 children.
The first three days of classes will focus specifically on psychosocial counselling and well-being. The third and fourth day will focus on revisioning lessons from before their schools closed. After the first week, lessons will continue as per their curriculum.
Read more: Learning in a pandemic: 4 tips for parents and caregivers with young children at home
Every sixth day of classes will consist of a special class, with customised timings decided by the teacher, for students living with disabilities, especially those who are hearing impaired, those who are weaker students or have missed classes.
Teachers of BRAC Academy, a fee-based school in Cumilla, eastern Bangladesh, are conducting classes from Nursery to Class 2 through enjoying telephone classes.
94 students are attending classes with their teachers through telephones. After creating a custom routine to call twice a week, parents and teachers work together to deliver abridged lesson plans to children to keep the flow of education running. The subjects include math, Bangla and English, with story time and drawing for extracurricular activities.
Focusing on student’s wellbeing and raising awareness on COVID-19, safe physical distancing and lockdowns
BRAC’s teachers start discussions with students about how they and their family are coping with the sudden changes caused by COVID-19.
“Close your eyes for five minutes. Imagine flying like a bird.”
Sharmin Akter, a teacher of BRAC’s primary school in Chattogram, southeastern Bangladesh, is one of 50 teachers currently conducting classes over phones. She first focuses on their wellbeing, using psychosocial counselling activities specially designed for children to cope with anxieties arising from the pandemic.
During the lockdown, many of the students in her class, especially boys, were helping their families in the field with farming. The girls were helping with housework. Sharmin’s classes over the phone are gradually bringing students back into learning routines.
All classes now end with discussions about hygiene practices and awareness about COVID-19 precautions. Teachers remind students of the importance of staying clean to avoid being infected by or spreading the disease, and instruct students to wash their hands properly.
Teachers also explain concepts such as physical distancing and lockdowns, giving them a sense of reassurance and security.
BRAC’s education programme will continue to revise its curriculum and teaching methods to equip students and their families to tackle COVID-19.
Our experience in providing education for the last 45 years has shown us that children are ambassadors to their families and the wider community by advocating their learnings outside classrooms, so we see children not only as crucially needing to be supported, but also as an invaluable resource in tackling the pandemic.
BRAC Education Programme has been working with BRAC’s social innovation lab, BRAC University Institute of Educational Development, and national experts in education, in designing initiatives and measuring effectiveness.
Read more about the COVID-19 situation in Bangladesh in BRAC’s weekly situation reports.
Sarah-Jane Saltmarsh is the head of programme and enterprise communications, and Zaian F Chowdhury and Rubab Al Islam are communications specialists of BRAC Communications.