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COVID-19

My experience monitoring the ALG pandemic learning pod

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As many school districts reopened this fall virtually, parents in our community were left with uncertainties and questions.

They were still trying to figure how to navigate online school from technical issues to internet issues and how to be a parent as well as home-school teacher at the same time. In other cases, parents were trying to figure out how are they were going to manage work while making sure their children stayed on top of their schoolwork.

One parent said: “I see my neighborhood public school as a place where I could send my daughter every day to, and know that she was safe, happy and learning while I was at work, but now, everything seems so uncertain, and totally out of our control.”

Those of us on the African Leadership Group staff heard many of these questions and concerns, and we wanted to help our parents the best way we could. When we heard about community learning pods and how privileged communities were forming small clusters of families who pool resources to hire a private tutor, and teachers to assist with online learning, we could not wait on the sideline for our families. We wanted to move forward with starting our own online learning pod.

We started our learning pod the last week of August and it has been going great so far. We are limited to only 12 students due social distancing guidelines we are following. The kids arrive at 7:30 a.m. and are here until 3:30 p.m. They spend most of the day doing their online schooling and I am always in the classroom for questions or issues they might have.

We have also opened a tutoring platform for many of our students. We are offering free tutoring to students in our community.

When I am sitting there monitoring and assisting the class, I get a firsthand glimpse of what many parents are experiencing with online learning for their kids. Every day, I sit at my desk trying to do my work and at the same time I am trying to make sure the students here are on top of their schoolwork. It is not  an easy task and one can only image what many parents in our community are feeling.

At the end of every week I get feedback from my students on how the school week went and I hear students’ concerns that they are bored with online learning (hence in-person pods). At the same time I see a lot of these kids spend time on YouTube and TikTok every day, which proves that being online needn’t be boring.

Kids are not bored with being online, they are bored with the content. There are alternatives to bland worksheets and piecemeal lessons.

With schools opening for in-person learning within the next month, we will continue to provide this service for any family who decides to keep their child at home.

My call to action would be to ask any parent, community member, teacher, tutor, etc. who facilitated or organized a pod: First, use your skills, talents and network to share social capital with children and families of underserved communities. Second, fundraise and advocate for programs that serve under-resourced communities.

Finally, join me in imagining what is possible if we educate our kids with a mindset of potential instead of scarcity.

Tapsuru Ba
Tapsuru Ba
Tapsuru "Ousman" Ba graduated from Colorado State University with a bachelor’s in international studies and political science. He currently works for ALG as program coordinator.

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