"Your first husband should always be your education," she uttered with a serious expression: low eyebrow, thoughtful appearance and firmed voice. Despite her straight face, grand ma was in deep contemplation. Her eyes were filled with hope, love and a strong vision. My late grand mother was a teacher, not simply by name but because she strongly valued education.
 
Raised by a single mother and a grand mother, my family never worried about my future marriage. They constantly retaliated that the ups and downs of life could easily take everything i would physically possess, but never what is engraved in my brain. An educated woman, grand ma often said, did not need to beg. She did not need to humiliate herself to make ends meet, because she thinks differently and turns her dream into reality. An educated woman cannot be undermined by her husband because she contributes to her home. An educated woman is not defined by her gender or beauty, but respected because she solves problems. An educated woman is a powerful woman.
Education is the key to freedom, and the door to opportunities, she often said. Her words remained engraved in my mind. I believed in it and strived to do my best in school. I am passionate about education. It is no wonder that my company focuses on non-formal education.
 
Like my late grand mother, many public figures continue to share what education means to them and emphasize its importance.
Michelle Obama: “the ability to read, write and analyse; the confidence to stand up and demand justice and equality; the qualifications and connections to get your foot in that door and take your seat at that table- all of that starts with education.”  
Nelson Mandela: “without education, your children can never really meet the challenges they face. So it is vital to educate children and explain that they should play a role in their country.”
Emmanuella Aboa: “Education is as important to your future as air is to your body.”
 
Last week i attended a thought provoking discussion on E learning. Present were owners from private and international schools/universities and parents.
Covid 19 has brought many uncertainties and disrupted many businesses- schools included. In the word of one participant "we were the first business to close, and might be the last business to reopen."
Schools should never be considered an option but rather an essential service. I strongly believe that education must be considered a physiological need- the very basic need as described in the Maslow hierarchy need. 
As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure our children get an education. While, Ellen Galinsky, author of Mind in the Making The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs stated that " children are born learning; it’s a survival skill that comes naturally to them", other researches indicate that "intellectual and physical education lead to numerous cognitive, social, emotional and health benefits." Unlike Europe where talents guarantee success, in Africa, our degree is our first step towards success.
 
Covid 19 brought many ambiguities. Since no one can guarantee how long the virus will remain, we can neither provide a one-size-fits-all solution nor suggest a normal solution to an abnormal situation. Teachers will need to think like entrepreneurs. The learning gaps will undoubtedly widen up children from poor and higher social classes.
 
To survive, schools will need to:
 
  • Embrace E learning. When schools reopen, some parents (such as myself) will not take our kids to school. Even though the death rate from the coronavirus remains low, as a parent of 4, I have no guarantee that should they get infected, my children will survive. I can gamble with my own life but not with that of my children. Virtual learning is a paradigm change. Other parents, however, will still take their kids to school because they have different perspectives. Schools must therefore ensure that they provide the infrastructure to accommodate both options, and maximize ROI.
  •  Prioritize well-being for students and their teachers. Reopening schools' shouts "money" rather than "we care". If we, as adults, find it difficult to stay a few hours with a mask on our faces, how do we expect our kids to comply with the same regulations? How can you ask children to respect social distancing when children are more social than adults? How can a kindergarten teacher restrain a child from sucking his/her finger, touch surfaces (contamination) and promote hand washing , while she has other kids to attend to? How can we respect social distancing in kindergarten when teachers constantly hold the children? 

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  • Understand that parents are not trained to be teachers. I remember how i would run to Google whenever my kids would ask a question on chemistry. I was already terrible back in school in chemistry, what added value could i possibly add to them? There is a reason why i do the things i do and that teachers teach. Lets’ embrace the differences. Similarly, most kids are also not self-regulated to work for a long period of time without constant supervision which is impossible for parents who are trying to balance work and school. Schools must reinvent themselves, re-train teachers and collaborate closely with parents. I recommend a guideline that encompasses among others, information on protecting our children online and the roles and responsibilities of each party. Eg: the schools will provide teachers with the necessary training and infrastructure to maximize virtual learning, while the parents will ensure that children are ready for their lessons and complete their homework. 
  • What is the value provided by the school? Is virtual learning just about math and english? Newsflash they are many online sites that provide the same for free. As a business owner, you must provide and communicate value to attract investment. Yes you can still have physical activities online (we do and the young people we train love it), yes you can still pray with your students, and yes you can continue music classes. What value are you adding for your suggested fee?
  • There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Remember some parents will loose their jobs (in certain cases both parents), some will have a pay cut, yet, others won't be affected. These are different clients’ categories which will require different solutions.  Virtual classes are expensive for most. The budget for food is increasing. Some homes may now have to install Wi-Fi or purchase equipment for the lessons. This means that the purchasing power will be changing. A 10% school fee reduction is unpractical and insensitive. Schools must provide options to parents. For example if Wi-Fi is available in one home, students may not encounter any problem with daily online courses, while someone who is on data and has no stable job may have challenges. As a solution provider, do you abandon that parent or do you offer flexibility by providing a subsidize fee for 2/5 days of online classes? This will definitely affect completion rate, but kids will still go to school and get some education. Because in the worse case scenario, parents will not enrol their children and you will be forced to close your school. Disrupt yourself or be disrupted.
 
According to WHO, we must learn to live with the virus, it is therefore important for schools to be proactive. 
If you are a school owner and you would like to brainstorm on governance, management and delivery of your school, develop an effective plan and implement strategies to mitigate risks , send us an email on: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.  
May God bless us all.
 
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