Distance Learning with MMAO

Mponda, Elineema, Zacharia, and Kai met today for the weekly MMAO Ambassadors team call. The focus of our call today was distance learning, and how best to engage the students at the respective schools there are so many challenges.

Mponda relates that his daughter was given a “holiday education” package by her school before departing a few weeks ago. She has tasks to accomplish, but there is no interaction with other students, and as such is a bit isolated. A combination of the work packages and on-line interactions will be a good balance.

The teachers are without pay since the start of March, and no promise of future pay this quarter. The students are at home. While most Tanzanian’s have cell phones, most are not smart phones. Ailanga is a bit different, with maybe 80% of the students’ parents having smart phones, but almost no one has a computer. And then there is the issue of internet bundles, the cost of being on-line. Most everyone has Gmail in order to use Android, but email is not commonly used for communication and usually goes without response.

Teaching faculty are pressing upon the school management to develop distance learning programs. But as the schools do not have a means to reach the students other than by calling their parents, progress has been slow. Despite no pay and these high barriers, Zacharia at Ailanga and Elineema at Makumira have succeeded in reaching out to many of their respective students.

They have used WhatsApp to reach the handful of students with whom they were already in contact, who in turn reached out to many more. As such, Zacharia now has more than 50 students in a WhatsApp group where he engages them in suggested reading, studies, and homework assignments. When complete, they send cell phone photographs over WhatsApp. So far, this is working but it gets a bit complex as the number of engaged students grows.

In our call we explored various platforms used worldwide for team meetings and distance learning: WhatsApp, Zoom, Slack, and managed web pages. I added new user accounts for Mponda, Elineema, and Zacharia at mmao.space such that they now maintain their own pages where they can post PDFs, images, reading content, and a link for delivering homework.

For their own homework, the Ambassadors are going to explore Slack and build upon the web page foundation we build during our Skype session.

As we refine our systems and methods, we’ll update here, at MMAO.space.

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