Why Education is More Important Now Than Ever Before

“The world we have made, as a result of the level of thinking we have done thus far, creates problems we cannot solve at the same level of thinking at which we created them.” – Albert Einstein

This is one of my favourite quotes of all time and resonates well with this unprecedented period in our lifetime with the covid-19 global pandemic. This unprecedented time marks a period of anxiety and uncertainty about what the future holds and how we are going to navigate this difficult path. However, we remain hopeful that the future can be both created and negotiable. The quote is also a powerful reminder that we will need a new way of thinking and doing things if we are to survive and thrive

The term “new normal” has become a buzzword with experts projecting a “new world” we will wake up to once this crisis has been effectively managed. However, before we get to ahead of ourselves, we are still awake to our lived realities, hopes and aspirations as an organization that works in the best interests of the child to secure quality education and psychosocial support to orphaned and vulnerable children. This period, unlike ever before, has emboldened the team to work even harder to ensure that our scholars are empowered citizens, supported to reach their full potential and can thrive in their communities, free of exclusion, disadvantage and vulnerability. They must be able to actively contribute to society as responsible citizens. 

Our scholars have become Covid-19 awareness champions in their communities, spreading clear and correct information on prevention measures. I am encouraged by the story of two of our new scholars for 2020 – Sanare Sangoyo (Grade 1) and Saitoti Penet Mayka (Grade 2) who come from Nanja, a conservative rural Maasai community. On returning home after school closures, they refused to shake hands with their parents. Handshaking is a culturally accepted and practiced gesture of warm and respectful welcome. The two went on to educate their parents about how coronavirus is spread and promoting good hygiene practices. Their parents are already seeing the transformative effects of quality education as have been splendidly surprised by their confidence and depth of their knowledge to simplify complex issues. The duo are most certainly change makers and game changers in their community, validating that children should also be heard not just seen in the community!

I’m also encouraged by the coping mechanisms of Racheal Isaack Pallangyo, a Form Four national exam candidate this year who uses her art as therapy when she feels under too much pressure, disconnected, or low on energy to take on the challenges and demands of everyday life. She says art invites her into a space where she is able to explore and express her emotions, develop more self-awareness, cope with stress, and boost her self-esteem. Don’t we all need this kind of therapy or something that helps us cope and stay resilient during such trying times! 

The determination and perseverance of Kennedy Lomboi, who also took initiative stands out. When he went back home, he started assisting his neighbors and other families with harvesting so he could earn money to buy a smartphone to enable him to access online study materials and resources from home. He says he is increasingly realizing that the future of learning and education is fast moving online and he doesn’t want to get left behind, so he decided to take on this initiative. As the eldest of 3 siblings, he says this will enable him to support his two other brothers as teachers have adapted to the prevailing situation by sending assignments and schoolwork on the WhatsApp platform. 

Nothing inspires me more than our highly dedicated and passionate team at The Foundation For Tomorrow working in the best interests of the Whole Child. This richly assembled team with different technical capacities, skills, experiences, backgrounds and an unwavering tenacity to deliver quality assured services, collectively focused on the social, emotional, physical, and cognitive development of our scholars. 

As the crisis was unfolding, the team checked in on 80% of our scholars at their respective homes to find out how they were coping. Further, the team shared information with them to curb the transmission of the virus. The follow up visits showed increasing vulnerabilities in the wake of Covid-19 affecting livelihoods, food security, and disruption to education as the home environment was threatening to snatch gains made over the years in delivering quality education. 

With the support of our unwavering team of donors and sponsors, we were able to deliver 63 emergency food relief support to our scholars’ families to carry them through this difficult patch. These are parents/guardians whose economic livelihoods and disposable income have suffered because of Covid-19. Every week we are delivering hundreds of printed assignments to our scholars, who do not have access to a smartphone, and ensuring that they get feedback from their teachers. This is the least we can do under the circumstance to ensure education is not lost during this difficult phase. We are continuously engaging our scholars to develop study plans they can follow through on and encourage the meaningful and active participation of parents or guardians in supporting scholars to set aside study time every day. 

We made the important decision to withdraw from field activities to minimize the risk of transmission of coronavirus as it has become increasingly risky for staff to remain in the field. We are currently in the process of migrating our Teacher Training sessions to online platforms. We have Continued Professional Development Training for teachers during this time period over online platforms. So far we have reached out to 37 of our targeted 91 teachers with two rounds of online trainings. This experience is still in its early phase and comes with a lot of challenges, like poor internet connectivity especially for teachers in rural areas and teachers who do not have access to smartphones. However, we remain hopeful that we will, in partnership with our boundary partners, create solutions that enable us to thrive. The teachers who participated in online trainings were happy to connect and appreciate the fact that they can continue to further develop, strengthen and sustain their passion for teaching practice and remain relevant during this period. 

We are in the process of trying to acquire tablets for our scholars in the examination classes i.e. Form 4 (Junior Secondary School) and Form 6 (Advanced Level) to access online learning resources. How they fare in the national examinations at this stage will drive their employability, productivity, and well being in the years to come, ensuring that their communities and nation thrive. The time to invest is now. 

The Foundation For Tomorrow is grateful for your continued and unwavering support during this difficult period. 

Education. This period is giving us the opportunity to rethink how education should work. We continue to think about alternative learning platforms so as to instill hope for a brighter future. Education cannot wait and educational needs cannot be forgotten as interruptions to education have long term implications, especially for the most vulnerable. Please continue to support  us in our quest to ensure we curb the real risk of regression for children whose foundational learning and future prospects as empowered citizens are under threat. Remember, for the most vulnerable children, education is transformative, as it instill hopes for a brighter future.