Community Learning Hubs (CLH): Local Solutions to Sustaining Vulnerable Children Education and Learning in COVID-19 Situation

Background The COVID-19 pandemic robbed children in vulnerable households of four months of schooling, compared to only a few weeks for their peers in well-to-do homes. These disruptions pose adverse effects on children`s education- enrolment performance and progression. Whilst rich households adopted online learning to bridge the gap for their children; poor families on the other hand were shut out. To address the unmet educational needs of 210 vulnerable children in Ibesikpo Asutan (122) and Nsit Ibom (88), Aids Care Managers (ACM) adopted a local initiative to sustain learning in the midst of the lockdown.

Methodology: During the COVID lockdown, ACM adopted a Community Learning Hub (CLH) approach where children were organized into learning groups of 5 persons to leverage the state-funded daily radio learning program aired for different grades. During the radio program, Community Case Workers (CCWs) were supported to mobilize children, provide learning aids, and work with trained teachers to respond to questions during learning sessions. A learning session last for 1 hour- 40 minutes of listening to school-on-radio and 20 minutes for reviewing notes and providing clarifications. During these sessions, CCW sent instant messaging to caregivers or conveyed learning points to children, reinforced through weekly home visits.

Results Five CLHs were formed in 2 Local Government Areas (LGAs) that reached 210 children within 4 months of intervention in Akwa Ibom State. The educational performance of children who returned back to school after lockdown within households with the same vulnerability improved from 54% to 100% compared to 33% to 70% for non-targeted children. Also, children who returned to school after lockdown maintained at 100% compared to only 8% of non-targeted children who did not return. End-of-term performance assessments of the children showed that 100% of the children scored above average in the transitional classes compared to 48% who were not targeted. Anecdotal information revealed increased acceptance of the initiative by the project stakeholders. The caregivers within targeted households who were hitherto worried, stressed, and frustrated about children’s education occasioned by the crippling effect of the lockdown were relieved.

Conclusion The COVID-19 lockdown stirred up novel ideas to solve emerging challenges differently. If harnessed effectively, the CLH approach can potentially address children with unmet needs in education in low-resource communities.

Posted by: Christopher Aruku, CLA Advisor, Center for Clinical Care and Clinical Research, Nigeria (03-Apr-2023)