Ethiopian teachers trained in distance learning to reach out-of-school children

In the context of education disruption due to both the COVID-19 pandemic and the ongoing conflict, UNESCO and Huawei supported the organization of three pilot workshops in Ethiopia, each held over two days. From 13 November to 5 December 2021, the pilot workshops introduced teachers to various types of distance learning methodologies, including online, TV based, radio-based and print-based approaches and their contextual application. A total of 117 Ethiopian teachers, over half of which were female teachers (52%), attended these pilot workshops. The teachers attending the training ranged from primary to high school levels and came from both rural and urban areas.

Teachers observed and practised the possibilities of using distance learning in content delivery, lesson plan preparation, classroom management, learning assessment and different aspects of classroom activities. The workshop organizer and main trainer, Mr Inku Fasil, was one of the five selected candidates following a call for proposals that attracted almost 200 entries.

Feedback from the teachers who attended the pilot workshops underlined the importance of training teachers for distance learning to ensure the continuity of education. “We have to be prepared because learning must be continued – if it doesn’t there are many consequences. So we have to prepare ourselves to continue the teaching-learning process and this training will help us,” said Hanna Seboke, a teacher in primary school. Zinabu Yilma, another teacher who attended the training, also pointed out the urgency of giving teachers the appropriate skills to face the challenges of remote teaching and learning by stating “When I came here it was kind of alarming for me. I realized we must hurry! I called my boss, ‘Get the teachers ready!’ I said, ‘I will give them this training!’ The training has inspired me; I have made a promise now on the phone. It has inspired me to share these ideas as soon as possible!”

Beyond the emergency response to the COVID-19 crisis, the training also answered the needs of teachers concerned with the future of education. Indeed, some teachers were already considering the use of technology before the school lockdown. Zinabu Yilma, a high school English teacher, reflected: “Before COVID-19 we were already thinking ‘how do we deliver our lessons digitally? Are we always following the traditional system?’”

More than 1.2 million children are currently out of school in the northern part of Ethiopia. Many more are not attending school all over the country, notably due to COVID-19.

Under the framework of the UNESCO-Huawei project ‘Technology-enabled Open Schools for All’ and based on the publication Ensuring effective distance learning during COVID-19 disruption: guidance for teachers, the training programme is currently being evaluated for replication in the activities of the UNESCO-Huawei project. The project empowers secondary school teachers and students (grade 9 & 10) by improving secondary school students’ result in STEAM Education and supports the new Ethiopian initiative on digital textbooks for secondary school students. The project will directly benefit 24 schools, around 250 teachers and 12,000 students, and should eventually widely benefit all schools in Ethiopia through the enhancement of national educational platforms.

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