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Publication

Remote learning during COVID school closures in West Africa

15 November 2021

Photo credit: Jonathan Torgovnik/Getty Images/Images of Empowerment

Full Report.Remote learning during COVID school closures in West Africa - 2 MB

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Executive Summary

This report describes the results from the second round of phone interviews with parents and guardians of Rising Academy Network (RAN) students in JulyAugust 2021. The objective of this round was to understand how to adapt educational activities to ongoing and future school disruptions due to COVID19. We collected data on enrollment, attendance, learning activities during school closures, and preferred remote learning tools from over 3,000 caregivers of students in 149 schools across Ghana, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Our sample consists of a mix of students from private and public schools, depending on RAN operations in each country. The results from this study can help education providers to better understand the impact of school closures on educational outcomes and to adapt remote learning strategies.

Key Findings

  • Enrollment and attendance: Dropout rates and irregular attendance remained low in all three countries. Female students and students in rural areas were slightly more likely to drop out of school, in contrast to the results from the first round of data collection which found no differences in dropout rates for different subgroups. COVID19 was highlighted as the main barrier to reenrollment.
  • Impact of school closures on education: The most common type of learning activity during school closures were private classes, which 48.6% of students attended. Few students (12%) did not engage in any learning activities. Besides learning, the majority of students spent their time during school closures doing household chores, with girls being more likely to spend time doing chores than boys.
  • Availability of learning tools: Most students have basic writing and reading materials at home (papers, pens, pencils, etc.), however, there are greater disparities in access to technology-based tools. Only 42.2% of caregivers report having a smartphone, this varies from 87.1% in Sierra Leone private schools to 26.4% in Liberia public schools. Since our sample only includes students who have a phone number listed in RAN’s database, the prevalence of technologybased tools, especially phones, is likely overestimated; the true prevalence of smartphone ownership may be closer to one in four caregivers.
  • Remote learning preferences: Caregivers prefer lowtech options over hightech options for remote learning, consistent with the variation in technology access across countries. Most caregivers would be willing to send their children to community classes and to private classes when schools are closed.
  • Learning disabilities: Nearly a quarter of caregivers report that their child has at least some functional limitation to learning, and 5% of caregivers report a significant learning disability.
  • School safety: Most caregivers perceive their child’s school environment to be safe, with improvements in perceptions of safety since RAN took over the school. However, some caregivers report awareness of physical and sexual abuse in schools (6.9% and 1.7%, respectively).

Recommendations

  1. Based on our findings in this round, we make four sets of recommendations:
    RAN should communicate the measures being taken in schools to keep children safe during COVID to boost confidence in reenrolment among caregivers.
  2. Schools should support home learning activities and engage caregivers in the process
    to reduce learning loss.
  3. To support learning during school closures, education providers must adopt a customized, multimodal approach that accounts for the availability of edtech and lowtech tools in each environment to reach children with differential access to edtech.
  4. Incorporating safeguarding into school programs can contribute to making schools a safer environment for children.
  5. Identifying the student population with learning disabilities can facilitate tailoring instruction and materials for learning.