Learning with Jijali in times of COVID
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These days it seems to be the most common topic of discussion. Almost no one has escaped unscathed, and the long-term impact is yet to be discovered as we progress in time and the evolution of this mysterious and perplexing pandemic. One thing is for sure though: learning has changed. Jijali wanted to gather real evidence around how much Jijali learners have been impacted by the pandemic, and what they have been doing to overcome the challenges they’ve faced. The findings fill us with hope, but also reflect the reality of the challenges that we all face in learning from home.
We, at Jijali, are constantly striving to provide the necessary tools and support for learners to overcome them, and these findings help guide us towards the best possible solutions.
From mid-March 2020, schools closed, and most offices closed or sent as many workers as possible home, to work from their homes or rural homes. The online world became the only world we could jointly inhabit, and instead of Jijali being a ‘bonus’ it became a key part of learning and networking for many young people. If we had asked anyone how much their lives had been impacted by COVID-19, we can assume that very few, or even no people, would answer ‘not at all.
When we asked Jijali learners to rate the impact of COVID-19 on their ability to participate in the Jijali program, we saw something similar. Almost half of learners (41.2%) rated the impact as severe, whilst the exact same amount rated it as ‘moderate’. Together, this makes 82.4% of learners whose learning with Jijali was greatly impacted in the months after the start of the pandemic.
We dug a little further, to understand the reasoning behind their answers, as it is only in doing this that we can truly understand how we can help to overcome these challenges. Unsurprisingly, many of the most popular reasons boiled down to financial obstacles. Whether it was lacking the financial means to enrol in the program, or not being able to purchase internet bundles to access the online content, these reasons all stem from the increase in unemployment, the preponderance of pay cuts, and great financial uncertainty for almost all industries, and in turn, all households.
As many fled Nairobi and sheltered in place in rural homes, where the cost of living is lower, and extended family is nearby, access to the internet became even more of a struggle. Even those that could afford bundles would often have patchy connections, and accessing online content would sometimes prove impossible. Couple this with frequent power outages, which are beyond anyone’s control, and online learning can be nigh on impossible. It is for these reasons that we call these findings ‘unsurprising’, as they have not only affected students but professionals and even children, who find themselves stuck at home, isolated, and even isolated from their online communities because of external factors.
However, we mentioned earlier that the findings fill us with hope. Now we move on to the positive findings. Whilst almost half were severely affected by COVID-19 in their ability to learn with Jijali, almost half simultaneously tried new ways to continue with the Jijali program. They weren’t willing to throw their hands up and give up. As the saying goes, ‘where there’s a will there’s a way’, and Jijiali learners certainly have bucketloads of will to learn. Whilst some turned to revise their business strategy and learning schedule, as a way to keep their minds active and revisit earlier lessons, others changed the very way that they were accessing content.
Instead of giving up when the internet connectivity or power supply at home or in the office wouldn’t allow them to access Jijali, they turned to cyber cafes or used their phones. Another way around the challenges that Jijali learners identified, was to allocate specific times to do practical tasks and translate their theory-based learning into practice-based.
Whilst some may have found themselves in situations of insurmountable challenges, it buoys our spirits to see that so many Jijali youths haven’t given up. We also embrace the positivity and solution-based thinking of the learners we surveyed. They had ideas for how we, as Jijali, can assist them in being able to continuously access Jijali online content and training no matter what difficulties they find themselves in.
They asked for COVID-specific content, which may be related to how to future-proof yourself, your business or your studies from the pandemic, and be able to take measures to stay safe and even thrive in these worrying times.
The idea of flexible timelines for submission of Jijali learning outcomes was also floated, allowing learners to make up for the numerous technical difficulties faced by having more time to complete work, but still having a goal and a deadline to work towards.
We heard loud and clear that learners want more affordable packages to still be able to continue with their learning, even if their financial situation doesn’t allow them to afford the usual Jijali fees. This is not unique to Jijali. Schools, training institutions and higher education institutions across the country have responded to calls to reduce the financial entry barriers for learning. The two major associations for private and international schools decreed that online learning fees be subsidized for all students, and all other auxiliary fees are waived.
Jijali also listened to what was going on in the world around us, and significantly slashed the fees per course, from Ksh 3,000 to Ksh 250 for individuals, and from Ksh 6,000 to Ksh 780 for businesses. The honest feedback shared by Jijali learners goes a long way to understanding the extent and severity of the impact of COVID-19 on their ability to learn with Jijali.
It is our responsibility as learning providers to do everything we can to overcome these challenges so that young people can continue to succeed in their career growth journey, and be better equipped to withstand whatever challenges life throws at them.
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