Spring 2021

back in the classroom

The READ II training for school leaders addressed school- related gender based violence prevention.

Below: READ II mobilized parents, teachers and volunteers to get students back into the classroom once schools reopened.

Alamire says. “The training we had helped us to be ready for this. In consultation with the school Gender Club and the Kebele [community government] administrators, as well as discussion with parents and students affected, we were able to convince them to return to school.” Refocusing on learning Back in class, educators had to ensure students came back ready to learn. This meant not only leading effective and engaging lessons but also taking steps to address the pandemic’s impact on students’ wellbeing. The READ II back-to-school training emphasized psycho-social support and social- emotional learning. Participating educators learned about what causes stress and how stress can become a barrier to learning. They learned how to identify and reassure students who are experiencing fear or anxiety due to the pandemic. To ensure schools are a safe place for all students to learn, the training reinforced how to recognize, prevent and address school- related gender-based violence. At Merawi Primary, School Director Gebeyaw Limenih says these tools are helping students get back into their learning routine and im- prove their performance in the classroom. “We have been grateful for the support. READ II has been a success here, and recently the trainings on how we can support our students during and after the reopening of schools has given us a wide range of useful skills and understanding,” Limenih says. “I hope by employing these skills and knowledge, we will support them through this difficult time.” n

For Cluster Supervisor Genet Nahusenay, the reopening of the three schools he oversees in the Amhara region was one of his biggest challenges during his 22-year career. The READ II training helped him guide the schools through the process while keeping the wider communities healthy. “Based on the skills and understanding we got from the training and the guidelines we were provided with, we have put in place all the necessary precautions aimed at protecting the school community from the COVID-19 pandemic to the greatest extent possible,” Nahusenay says. Family outreach to prevent dropout For many students, the challenge of returning to class starts well before they reach the school grounds. COVID-19’s economic fallout pushed many families to rely more heavily on their children to generate income, particularly farm- ers in rural areas. Now accustomed to their children’s assistance, some families have been reluctant to let them return to school. READ II mobilized more than 7,400 trained volunteers — the community literacy leaders who facilitate the program’s reading camps — to conduct a back-to-school campaign in the communities. The program prepared another 4,600 advocates from parent-teacher-student associations and local education and training boards to communicate with parents about their role to get kids studying again.

Gonbat Primary School Director Fetene Alamire has helped lead his school through the transition with guidance from READ II and the Ministry of Education

For young people — especially adolescent girls — in the region, rising poverty during the pandemic increased the risk of child marriages, according to a report by UNICEF. In communities near Gonbat Primary School, Alamire counted 15 families that had arranged marriages for their children —mostly girls, but a few boys too — over the past several months. READ II’s training for school leaders gave special attention to reaching these families. “We were able to return 12 of them to school,”

Photos by Berihun Ali

24 | Think Creative | Spring 2021

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