The global coronavirus pandemic has undoubtedly impacted school children immensely, including here in the UK, but it's those in the poorest households living in developing countries that have been most affected. According to UNICEF, one in three children worldwide missed out completely on access to remote learning when schools closed in their countries, resulting in a global education crisis.
Christian charity Compassion UK has seen firsthand the extreme challenges being faced by many of the children and families they work with across 25 developing nations, caused not only by the pandemic but also by existing socio-economic difficulties. It took the ingenuity of both staff and the children themselves to enable lessons to continue on some level.
The inspiring stories of a 17-year-old student-turned-teacher, and a Compassion centre in Guatemala that got creative with its own TV programme for the children, are just two examples of what passion and resourcefulness can do to help counter the impact of the pandemic on the education of millions of children.
The Ghana secondary school student turned teacher
At just 17-years-old, Evans has discovered an opportunity to make a difference in his community in Ghana. When the government shut down schools due to the Covid-19 pandemic, they televised tuition classes nationwide. However, Evans knew many students who lived in disadvantaged communities, like him, didn't have access to a TV.
Not wanting his fellow students to miss out, he created an online learning platform on WhatsApp where he teaches English, mathematics, social studies, and science using mostly audio and sometimes videos to explain the concepts.
"There are students who cannot hire a teacher to teach them at home. Many of them don't have access to televisions for the learning programmes created by the government, so I created this WhatsApp group to help them learn at home," he explains.
His 'students' then try the hands-on assignments he gives them, take photos of the completed assignments, and post on the platform. Evans 'meets' his students everyday between 8:00 pm and 10:00 pm when he is sure they can easily have access to the phones they use for lessons.
The group started with about 50 students and has since grown to over 250 members from all over the country. With families struggling to stay afloat as supplies continue to diminish and families unable to work, having their children continue their education through Evan's platform gives parents one less thing to worry about.
"Things are hard, but I am happy he is doing this," says Evans mother.
Not many 16-year-olds know the career they'll pursue. Fortunately, Evans discovered early that he wants to be a lecturer in the future and it's great to see he has found an opportunity to make his dreams for the future a reality in the present.
"I want to be a lecturer in the future," he says. "I like teaching, I feel happy when I am teaching."
Reaching children in Guatemala with a TV show
There's a new children's programme on television in Guatemala, and it's starring the tutors from Getsemani child development centre. 'Skippy Club' screens three times a week and teaches children fun lessons based on Compassion's holistic curriculum.
Getsemani child development centre, near the border of Guatemala and Mexico, had an idea to continue to reach the children enrolled in their programme during government-imposed restrictions. Tutor Sucely, together with the church's leadership, decided to make a television show.
"We were concerned about our children's safety and wanted to find ways to keep protecting them, sharing the Bible and practising their creative abilities. That helped us to come up with the idea of the TV show," said Sucely.
"We live in a community where the Guatemalan and Mexican governments provided televisions and radios to help children have virtual classes through government channels, so we found a great opportunity to do the TV show."
They use a church-based local TV channel to host the show. Sucely and other tutors are the presenters, much to the children's delight.
"I love to watch my tutor on TV. It is like they are famous people that I know. I love how they teach us about God and how to be creative," said eight-year-old David.
"I also love when the tutor teaches us about God using puppets, it is very funny. Time goes quickly when I watch the Skippy Club, but I also want to attend the centre. I miss my friends and hugging my tutor."
Just like other TV shows, the team was eager to see the ratings. They were thrilled to hear that their programme has 3,000 viewers.
"I never imagined the love they have for children and the support they gave us," said David's mother, Yanira. "They make us feel blessed and supported."
Compassion centres around the world are helping parents and children make their educational dreams come true. There are different factors affecting school attendance, including bullying, financial issues, and socio-emotional factors, but at Compassion's child development centres, children receive the school supplies they need, plus special learning support to develop their reading and writing skills if needed.
At the centre, computer labs and printers are available for them to use to complete their schoolwork and Compassion may also cover the cost of school fees, so children don't miss out.
This intervention was crucial in helping these children stay and excel in school, with many children registered in the Compassion programme going on to become the first professionals in their families.
To find out more about how you can help to bring hope, education and much needed support to children like David, go to www.compassionuk.org