Creeping in as a health hazard, COVID-19 quickly wreaked havoc on socio-economic infrastructures and undermined decades of development gains made by both rich and poor countries. But the cruelest blow fell on our children’s education, turning it into a nightmare.
Our first step included surveying children’s families to understand their needs and get a handle on the potential obstacles to remote schooling. We also assessed our teachers’ needs. We sourced laptops and tablets for our teachers to prepare lessons. That was the easy part! Few of our children’s homes have a TV, and even fewer have a computer with WIFI. Some can’t even afford a cell phone.
The solution wasn’t ideal, but it had the maximum reach to the students. Our teachers developed weekly study lessons and assignments, packing them with food rations to be delivered to the children’s homes, or to be collected by their parents from Kids Alive sites. Those with cell phones got their study resources via social media along with instructional videos.
“A recent study showed that in some of our communities, less than 10% of students graduate from high school before age 20,” says Vic Trautwein, Country Director, Kids Alive Dominican Republic. He adds, “In sharp contrast to this, Kids Alive students have a graduation rate of over 80%, despite the fact that our kids come from the most challenging circumstances.”
As COVID-19 continues to loom large going into 2021, our teachers have redoubled their resolve to counter its impact on education.
We are grateful to you, our supporters, for continuing to walk alongside us, even as our teachers walk alongside our children.
Leidl is a dedicated teacher who has worked with Kids Alive for 10 years. She has taught at several levels of basic education and currently teaches second grade.
What do you like about your job?
I enjoy many things about my work, starting with the pleasure of being close to children, listening to their life stories, teaching them, and having fun with them while learning with and from them. Every behavior or difficulty they present is an opportunity for me. I love to win their little hearts and mark their lives with love and discipline. I enjoy having an organized, disciplined classroom, challenging children to reach their potential, and not limiting them. I also enjoy sharing with my co-workers and learning from them.
During this pandemic, it has been difficult for me not to be in close personal contact with my children, as well as not being able to go out during recess and share with my fellow teachers from school. In truth, I have missed everything about them, even their bad behaviors that almost always allowed me to connect more with them and understand the reasons why they reacted in a certain way. It has been difficult to change our routine from being very sociable and interactive to limiting myself to just listening to their little voices sometimes via WhatsApp or seeing them from afar on the streets.
What has been most challenging during the COVID pandemic?
It has been a challenge to distance-teach, especially without adequate communication tools at the children’s ends. Another challenge was limiting myself to a single communications platform because their parents did not have other options. And the worst was seeing that everything that had been working so well in-person was unavailable. Somethings I did made the children come closer to me and know they were loved; instead, now I prepare instructional videos to send via the internet.
What’s been most difficult for the children?
Something difficult for some of my children was fear of exposure and sickness from the virus as many families lacked protective equipment and they live in close quarters. Another difficulty that I think they went through was lack of food. Some parents lost their jobs and some of them had to scramble to survive in the first stage of the virus. Also, limitations of learning due to lack of internet connection or even phones was frustrating. Some suffered from anxiety about the situation since they expressed their fears and hoped that God would take the virus away.
Where have to felt God’s presence during the pandemic?
I am thankful to God that Kids Alive delivered food rations to the families once a week. I know that helped a lot. I remember that at some point the rations were delayed. I do not remember the reason – the children whose mothers had no jobs or no one to help them came to my mind. Sometimes I shared some small portions of my food with some and could see their faces light up when they saw me. A very sad experience for me was when I arrived at the house of a student and she wanted to hug me and but couldn’t because of the virus. It broke my heart. I also send messages of encouragement and prayers to parents.
Ark Jarabacoa academic coordinator Romery circulates among the multigrade classrooms to give extra assistance and guidance. Many of our residential children arrive in our care behind in their schooling, this is a great opportunity to provide some "catch-up" education as well as forge deep connections.
Palo Blanco office staff Raquel, sorts through completed assignments that are ready for grading. The reviewing and grading of classwork has required detailed and creative planning. Our teachers trained in Trauma Competent Care, approach students struggling to complete their work with an awareness and understanding that there may be larger issues behind delayed assignments.
Palo Blanco School teachers Hember, Eric, and Ana Alba enjoy a moment of comradery while planning lessons and devotions for their students. Although held on the school campus, discipleship “Club” is an important time for students to connect it helps prevent at-risk teens from pregnancy, alcoholism, and drug abuse, as well as school dropouts.
Rosanny , teacher, Santo Domingo East, visits her 4th graders as she is concerned about their wellbeing. *Amanda presented her with a beautiful letter full of love and a desire to be back at school. Home visits challenging as the Dominican government has curfews in place as well as a mandatory mask requirement and a prohibition of students on school campuses.
Director Luz Angela, Constanza School, and her staff created detailed COVID-19 safety protocols for parents to visit the school campus for parent-teacher meetings and exchange of completed and new schoolwork assignments. Hand disinfection, masks, and proper distancing are all enforced to ensure everyone’s safety.