COVID-19

(PHOTOS) Learning from home in Kibera, during Covid-19

Unicef distributing 27,500 solar powered radios for learners without access to lessons

In Summary

•Kibra is Kenya's largest informal settlement.

•A lack of basic services, including running water and health care, and the close proximity of makeshift homes make Kibera an especially challenging place for children to live.

KCPE candidate Sandra stands at the door of her family house in Kibra. "I am worried because I do not know when I will go back to school and when I will take my exams,” she says.
KCPE candidate Sandra stands at the door of her family house in Kibra. "I am worried because I do not know when I will go back to school and when I will take my exams,” she says.
Image: UNICEF/BRIAN OTIENO

Before the Covid-19 pandemic hit, going to school gave children in Kenya a safe and supportive learning environment, with access to free school meals and other services.

Yet today, as classrooms remain closed, children continuing their education from their Kibera homes are grappling with problems such as intermittent power and limited space to play or exercise.

Kibra is Kenya's largest informal settlement. Unemployment and poverty levels are high, with many residents living on less than a dollar a day. A lack of basic services, including running water and health care, and the close proximity of makeshift homes make Kibra an especially challenging place for children to live.

Sheila sits at the table she shares with three other family members, working her way through her textbooks as she studies for the exams marking her final year of primary school. Her mother Florian is helping her with her homework.
Sheila sits at the table she shares with three other family members, working her way through her textbooks as she studies for the exams marking her final year of primary school. Her mother Florian is helping her with her homework.
Image: UNICEF/ BRIAN OTIENO

In total, over 18 million students in Kenya have been affected by the closure of schools. An extended period of closure will impact children’s wellbeing and have a long-term impact on inequality, as the most vulnerable families may not send children back to school.

“Unicef is focusing on providing the most vulnerable children with access to learning, including those in informal settlements, refugees, and children with disabilities,” Unicef Kenya Chief of Education Marilyn Hoar says. “We are supporting out-of-classroom learning on radio, TV and online, and informing parents how to access lessons. We are also preparing guidelines for the safe reopening of schools.”

To support children across Kenya in continuing their education, the UN body has been working with the government to provide radio, TV and Internet lessons. Despite the challenges in Kibra, many children are using these resources to continue learning.

After the televised lessons end for the day, Elizabeth continues her studies through her textbooks.
After the televised lessons end for the day, Elizabeth continues her studies through her textbooks.
Image: UNICEF/ BRIAN OTIENO

The Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) estimates that 47 per cent of learners are accessing lessons through radio, TV or the Internet. This means that over half of Kenya students are not able to access remote lessons, either because they are outside of broadcast range or do not have the necessary equipment.

To address this, the agency is mapping areas without radio and exploring ways to reach children, including by distributing 27,500 solar powered radios for learners without access to lessons. We are also distributing textbooks to 18,350 students in refugee camps and have provided tutorials on physical fitness through smartphones to children in informal settlements, including those with disabilities.

10-year-old Justin studies using the television at his neighbour’s house in Kibra. He is joined by his five-year-old brother Morara, who is in kindergarten. Morara draws pictures in his brother’s exercise book.
10-year-old Justin studies using the television at his neighbour’s house in Kibra. He is joined by his five-year-old brother Morara, who is in kindergarten. Morara draws pictures in his brother’s exercise book.

As well as responding to the situation of children not in school, Unicef is also planning ahead for the next stage of the Covid-19 response.

“We are working with the Ministries of Health and Education to prepare schools to re-open safely when the time comes,” Unicef Kenya Chief of Education Marilyn Hoar says. “This includes disinfection of any school buildings that have been used as quarantine facilities. And we will continue supporting schools to ensure that children have access to handwashing facilities.”