On March 19, 2020, we interviewed our 2019 fellow Brenda Moore on Twitter. She founded KEEP: Kids Educational Engagement Project in Liberia when schools shut down for Ebola. She recently wrote an article about what schools should do now for Coronavirus. Here is a transcript of the conversation!
Q1) In 2014, during the #Ebola crisis, you began an educational initiative for youth when schools closed. With millions out of school for #COVID19, this is relevant all over the world. When did you decide it was time to try something?
@Liberianjue: After about a week into the mandatory shut down due to the Ebola outbreak. The kids were bored. I realized I needed to keep them structured and engaged as I was unsure when schools would be reopened. I figured I needed to find activities that would keep them busy
Q2) How did you spread your educational effort and get people involved when you began it during the Ebola school shutdown in Liberia?
@Liberianjue: We used social media initially to get word out that there WERE ways parents could keep their kids positively engaged that were safe and effective. Volunteers signed up. Word got out. More communities connected with what we were doing and wanted the initiative.
Also, word of mouth went far and wide. We did the intervention in a way that communities could replicate at low cost using residents they trusted and knew.
Many civil servants were sent home, thousands of people with expertise n time on their hands were available to volunteer. College students. Professional people. They all jumped in to help. Over the 9 months period, we had up to 25 volunteers per week at a time!
@AspenNewVoices: That’s amazing! I guess people didn’t have to self-isolate as much or were they doing this all remotely?
@Liberian: No. With Ebola, you only had to avoid touching the sick person or any body fluids. It is not as contagious as corona. Also by the time someone could infect another, they were too sick to move about. It was much safer compared to now
Q3) @Liberianjue – What are you doing in Liberia now that schools have shut down again, for #COVID19? Are people coming to your organization for guidance? Have you been in meetings with educational leaders? Etc
@Liberianjue: Meetings, yes. There have been several with stakeholders across govt, NGOs and schools. My article was timely and had people thinking ahead. Interestingly a day after it was published, we got a confirmed case! A few actors reached out to get my opinion on what we can do.
We have 2 cases and Its been only 3 days since schools were closed. So mostly there’s been speculation as to when schools will be reopened.
For @keepliberia, we have reemphasized the reading campaign we launched earlier this year encouraging parents 2use d time to get their kids to read more.We have also opened our reading centers for parents to borrow books, imposing safety protocols like only 2 persons at a time.
We are also looking at introducing the home study packets that parents can pick up from our centers for pre-school to 2nd graders. The govt might extend the closure of schools to another week we have heard.
The mandate is to reduce public gatherings, so we’re keeping that clearly in mind. This is also a time to reinforce good hygiene practices.
Q4) @Liberianjue – What advice do you have to the millions of parents worldwide who have kids stuck at home during #COVID19 shutdowns, especially ones who are also trying to do their work at the same time?
@Liberianjue: Maintain a level of structure for the kids! Children require structure and knowing what comes next in each day. Schools help to provide that for them. Now that the schools are closed, don’t let your child break the structured behavior of school. If nothing else, get them reading.
Come up with a plan for them AND YOU that you both understand clearly. Write it down so you both follow that routine. Have them understand you may be home but also need to work. Make sure to add play as part of your daily plan. It is good for all of you mental health.
Those in developed countries can take advantage of the many online learning platforms. Those in developing countries with poor Internet and electricity access, review the kids older notes from school. Ask them questions from those notes.
Activities can be simple things like storytelling. Have them do a lot of creative work as well. It’ll give you time to work. Let them draw. Colour. Write a story about being locked in. Etc.
@Liberianjue: Those in countries where its easier to communicate, now is a good time 2connect with parents n students. Make follow up calls 2 find out how the kids are coping with home studies. Support parents who might have lower levels of literacy and are unable to engage as they might want. This can be either thru texts or emails or calls.
It may seem a prison sentence, but it could be a good time to also bond with the kids in ways we never seem to have time to because we’re always on the go.
@AspenNewVoices: That’s true. Look for the positives where we can w/#COVID19! I have an almost-2-year-old home from preschool and i’m enjoying extra nature walks with him and thinking creatively about how to help him learn and have fun. #FamilyBonding!
@liberianjue: Thank you for the opportunity to share our experiences and what we are doing now