Clarke Junior School creates class WhatsApp groups to beat COVID-19 Lockdown


By Arinaitwe Rugyendo

Kampala – When President Yoweri Museveni announced, Wednesday, the closure of schools as part of a series of measures to fight coronavirus, Clarke Junior School went to the drawing board.

They kept true to their motto: Inquire Discover and Learn.

In order to beat the 32-day lock-down announced by government, the school has decided to keep their pupils in a virtual learning mode via the popular social media app, WhatsApp, and therein, is a lot to learn by the rest of the schools across the country.

“Our school buildings may close but we do not plan to stop learning,” said Miss Katherine Tucker, the school’s Founder and Director who boasts of an extensive global education experience as a consultant and teacher.

Located in Bukasa, Muyenga, South East of Kampala city, Clarke Junior School implements a local primary school curriculum learning with a global blend and perspective.

“We support children on their journey as they move through the process of being only aware of themselves to discovering an awareness of ‘other’. We help all our children to acquire the ability to be at ease with people with cultures different from their own. We help children look at everything they learn through both a local and global perspective developing adaptable, globally-minded Ugandan citizens prepared to be leaders in the world of tomorrow, that they will be living and working in,” Miss Tucker told Red Pepper Digital immediately after the president’s announcement.

Faced with the reality of school closures, the Clarke Junior School leadership asked themselves about what their children’s learning will turn out like, during the 32-day lock-down.

“As teachers, it is our professional obligation to do the best we can ‘to keep on learning’ in whatever circumstances we find ourselves,” Miss Tucker emphasized.

As every school is thinking of new ways to keep children learning, potentially, Clarke Junior School is very much aware that is it is changing the face of education.

“At Clarke Junior School we are determined that we will honour our school motto ‘to keep on learning’ even with the recent school closures for Coronavirus. Our school is much bigger than the buildings we use. We are a community of people who are passionate about learning, and we are determined to find ways to ‘keep inquiring, keep discovering and keep on learning’ even in the midst of the coronavirus crisis,” she promised.

And how does the school intend to achieve this?

Miss Tucker revealed:

“We plan to use and set up remote learning opportunities and we are encouraging the whole family to get involved, as research shows we learn best when we learn together. We have discussed many different ways in which we hope to do this. We feel amongst our school community that WhatsApp is the most effective method of communication. We have thought ways in which this app will be turned into a successful classroom.”

Clarke Junior School in Bukasa, Muyenga, a Kampala suburb. (PHOT0: Courtesy)

Indeed, this is new territory, so, everyone- pupils, teachers and the parents, will all be learning.

“We are setting up class WhatsApp groups, where our teachers will broadcast their learning intentions, deliver learning activities and provide feedback throughout the day. We are carefully thinking up research questions related to the curriculum that students can explore easily at home. We want to turn your home into a classroom, into a family learning space,” she said.

Indeed, Red Pepper Digital has learnt that students and teachers will explore a range of ways to share and show that the required learning has been successful. The school anticipates usage of voice memos, recording videos and photographing written work; teachers will attempt to keep learning engaging, relevant and fun. Teachers will set up experiments at home, record them and encourage our students to do the same.

“We are keeping to a timetable of learning and urging our parents to support this through getting involved. We are even suggesting children put on their school uniform, so they still get a sense of being at school,” Miss Tucker says.

To achieve this, Clarke Junior School believes the Family involvement will be key.

“We all need to pull together. We know children learn best when they learn alongside others. So adults, do not be shy, exercise your brains and join in the learning,” Miss Tucker counsels.

If parents don’t know or understand something, the school is advising that they ask their children to explain it or try and figure it out together.

“We hope the whole family will get involved and as well as learning, this will bring families together and the enjoyment of learning will be shared.”

To achieve maximum results, Miss Tucker has advised her parents and indeed the rest of the parents in Uganda to try out the following sample learning ideas to think about with the children at home:

• Jajja tell me about how life was the same and different when you were a child?

• Collect 5 different leaves from 5 different trees. Draw round the leaves. Can you name the trees the leaves are from? Find out an interesting fact about each tree. Can you label the different parts of the leaf?

• Write a letter to your LC1 explaining a problem in your local community and how you can solve the problem. The letter should be set out as an official letter.

• Find an article in the newspaper that sounds interesting to you. Read this aloud to a member of the family. Ask different members of your family for their opinions on the story. What sources of information did the journalist use? How reliable do you think they are? May they have a bias?

• Find 10 stones. Put them in two groups. How many different ways can you put them in two groups. Write it out as a sum e.g. 8 +2 = 10, 7+3 = 10

• Pick something that you would like your family to learn over this period, maybe it is traditional drumming, maybe it is traditional dancing, maybe a language you speak, maybe memorizing scripture, maybe learning some family songs.

“Commit some time every day to practicing what you want,” Miss Tucker recommends.

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