The education sector like many others was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic and all that came with it. Kabojja International School however was able to adapt and find its way through the hurdles the pandemic brought, as the Director/Principal Mr Sam Turya (pictured above) shares below.
We were all not ready when the pandemic hit and schools were closed. The advantage was that Kabojja International School is an organised institution and so, we didn’t run in a crisis. Rather, strategic planning decisions were taken and Kabojja rearranged ourselves for continuity of learning. As planners of the school, we thought of a second option. Again, as a school, we are well facilitated with things like fast internet, ICT facilities like smart board and an e-Library so we could have digital learning, and the teachers and learners are equipped with their laptops.
Teachers were also first trained to re-orient them on how to run online classes, because much as we have been having online classes through Cambridge trainings, we have never had a full school running online. We already had resources, so they were inducted on how to use them while at home, and how to communicate with the parents. We planned how we could use Google and Zoom classes, which were not very popular in Sub-Saharan Africa at the time. So, we initiated them.
Later on, we had meetings with parents who we needed to be on the same page with us since they are the main stakeholders in this and the learners were going to be home with them, meaning they were going to be the facilitators. We prepared the mindset of parents on how to: follow the time table, when to get breaks, how to get a student into a learning environment, and how to have students get engaged away from school even have sports sessions online, while in their homes.
We went also ahead to ease the financial burden of internet costs by providing both staff and learners with zero-rated internet for online classes at their homes.
Handling learners online
As would be expected, successfully having online classes took a great deal of preparation to learners as well because they were also doing online classes for the first time, so it was a challenge. We had to give them the dos and the don'ts, and at the same time, mentally prepare them, especially the candidates (in Year 6 who were going to do Check Point, Year 11 doing IGCSE and Year 12 & 13 doing GCE,AS & AL) who had their exams coming up. We drummed up the fact that we had no other way out but to adopt. That is how we started.
As hopes were dwindling that schools won't be able to open again soon for the remaining part of the second term, and the rest of the academic year, we also went online with the rest of the learners - this was around May, 2020.
Candidates performance affected?
There is performance and learning and Cambridge is a curriculum which is based on active learning and not necessarily about grades, though they are important. So, yes, the lockdown affected learning because of the gaps it created, but it never affected their grades.
Eventually, Cambridge decided to cancel the examinations and substituted the physical exams with evidence based assessments from schools to be submitted. These were used to predict grades of learners and eventually, when results came, Kabojja International School had one of the best results we have ever had.
As for the rest of the learners in other classes, they were able to complete their academic year online around July, more or less using the same method of involving parents, learners, and teachers so they didn’t lose an academic year.
But then again, the situation was not predictable, so we prepared the parents further. We had them know that if the government doesn’t open, online classes would continue for the new academic year. We structured the fees, and structured the payment of teachers since they were working from home. We prepared mentally.
For the new academic year, we first had candidate classes and later on, when the government accepted us, other learners also came back.
When the government allowed candidate classes to open; we put SOPs in place and though the government had given us a list of SOPs, the school itself further prepared.
Classes were put at a required number of 15 for social distance. The advantage is that we are well facilitated and normally, our classes don’t exceed 20 learners, so this was within the range.
We already had electronic facilities that facilitate our learning and teaching, so we capitalised on them too. Coming in, we had sensitization messages. On top of these, when the learners came in, we also sensitized them. We installed automatic sanitation points around the school plus water points at every corner. We took an early lead in purchasing gadgets like spray machines that spray cars, the library, seats, and reception areas where people are in touch.
At every interval, when students are off from lessons, we take a break to sanitise everywhere including books in the library and seats.
Generally, we have hope that the SOPs we have put in place give the learners and parents an assurance and a mindset that they can be safe at school.
We also engaged the learners to know that there will be increased supervision in their interaction with others and compliance to the SOPs, because normally, they are used to an environment where they are not tethered.
Again, since they go back home, every time they come in, we check their temperatures and record everything. We have isolation rooms as the ministry of health directed us with IHK Hospital running our onsite sick bay. We are also working with Makerere University Hospital to test learners and staff who might be feeling unwell or show signs.
To further emphasise the SOPs, we have embedded them in our school rules and regulations. When students come, they are given a document with the SOPs which they sign and agree to adhere to. This means that it is part of our policy and calls for a penalty for those who break them.
We finished that term well with no cases and we are now in a new academic term and have learners of all classes around. I would comfortably say that we are ready because we have what it takes if any case arises.
We all were closed down, but International schools were more threatened then than traditional schools because we were heading towards the end of the academic year and had examinations.
Kabojja International School directors at the forefront took a lead in engaging the Ministry of health and the Ministry of Education to allow learners to come to school.
When the president announced that the candidates for International schools can be allowed, we took a lead to mobilise other International schools, Cambridge and other stakeholders. Cambridge gave us a cover letter which we gave to the ministry of education. This referred us to the ministry of health. With other colleagues, we engaged the ministry of health and it gave us a clearance to open.
So, we thank our colleagues and partners who put an effort to justify this need and even put the SOPs in place for learners to be at school.
We have a few slots for admissions in non-candidate classes, for admissions, we encourage parents to check with administration for any opportunities.
This article is sponsored by Kabojja International School.