School closures in the context of Covid-19: an inequity impact assessment of Primary 2 and 3 pupils
Following Covid-19-related school closures across Rwanda, our Building Learning Foundations team commissioned an inequity impact assessment of the country’s primary-age school population to investigate how children from different backgrounds and contexts have fared during the period of closures, and to inform plans for school reopening.
In response to outbreak of Covid-19 in the country, the Government of Rwanda (GoR) decided to close all schools on 14th March 2020 as part of a packet of interventions to ensure public safety. Following this decision, the Rwanda Education Board (REB) and its partners pivoted their approach to rapidly deliver remote learning through online platforms as part of the Covid-19 education response plan developed by the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC).
To inform school reopening plans in this context, Building Learning Foundations (BLF) commissioned an Inequity Impact Assessment of Rwanda’s primary-age school population to investigate how children from different backgrounds have been able to access and benefit from learning opportunities during this period. The study followed a descriptive research design, and a mixed methods approach was adopted, entailing the collection of both qualitative and quantitative data. 1,860 individuals (comprising 418 girls, 388 boys, 494 mothers, 365 fathers, and 195 local opinion leaders) were purposively sampled from twelve districts, covering both urban and rural settings, to participate in the field-level research.
The study found that despite the availability of diverse learning platforms (namely radio lessons, telephones, television, and other web-based channels), the majority of parents were unaware of their existence. Interventions to raise awareness of these learning platforms were limited: only 55% of parents confirmed that they found out about remote learning opportunities through official radio announcements, while another 19% reported having found out by chance, as opposed to being informed or sensitised.
In addition, while radio ownership was thought to be widespread, only 30% of surveyed families confirmed having a radio device, although 42% of children reported that they had followed radio lessons.
There was a surprising lack of learning at household level: just 48% of the parents surveyed reported that they were doing any type of supplemental learning in the household setting. The study highlighted particular dangers for pre-adolescent and adolescent girls in terms of learning loss, as well as children for with either disabilities or chronic diseases. All of these children and young people were at particular risk of being left behind when schools reopened. Worryingly, 26% of parents who had a child with a disability said they were not learning at home at all. The study showed diverse reasons for this, such as children being unmotivated to learn and parents’ economic concerns, which may prevent children from returning to school.
In preparation for school reopening, the study recommended targeted interventions to ensure the most vulnerable return to their education as quickly as possible. These included, among other interventions, dedicated parental engagement, community mobilisation (such as back-to-school campaigns), targeted interventions towards expectant or breastfeeding young mothers, adaptive distance learning strategies and ensuring the inclusion of children with disabilities.
This research was conducted by the Building Learning Foundations Team in Rwanda. To find out more about the Building Learning Foundations programme, please click here.