Lazarous (Lazalo) Sinkala. Mpelembe Secondary School in Kitwe in the Copperbelt province of Zambia.
Lazarous works at a co-education boarding school with about 900 learners from Grade Eight to Twelve. About one third of the learners are girls. The learners are drawn from different parts of the country. The school is a feepaying private school which is run by the Catholic Church, though fees are relatively low in order to allow fair enrollment based on merit. The school offers an all-embracing curriculum that meets today’s education challenges. Lazarous is also Chief Examiner for English Paper 1 under the Examinations Council of Zambia and author of ‘English Composition and Summary for School Certificate’ textbook.
The challenge and response
When Lazarous’ school closed on 20th March, the school had limited resources to support remote learning. He describes how he rose to the challenge: “as an individual teacher of English language and literature in English, I designed and recorded audio and video lessons which I started sharing with my learners. It was a huge expense on my part, but I needed to keep my learners afloat. It was also a challenge to reach out to all the learners as some of them were in areas where mobile network and internet connectivity are poor. Other learners did not even have smart phones.
“At first, I opened a google classroom for all my learners. It proved to be a big challenge due to the connectivity challenges mentioned above. I had to redesign and reposition myself by offering pre-recorded audio and video lessons which I started sharing to learners using WhatsApp (I have attached an example).
“It was very important that I reach out to my learners because the majority are in Grade Twelve and are due for the final exams. I needed to adequately prepare them for exams and maintain the quality of my 100% pass record that I have held for many years. My learners appreciated the move and were very excited when the WhatsApp group was formed.
“The major obstacle was with those who did not have phones and those who had phones but found it expensive to download the lessons. I then engaged the parents to support my efforts by providing the phones to their children. In some extreme cases, I encouraged those learners to group themselves according to their localities in order to accommodate those who did not have the resources. The aim was to utilize every opportunity in order to adequately prepare my learners for exams.”
Lazarous had to be determined in his response and make sure his learners had confidence in him. Learners even reported that they understood some topics better because they were able to play the downloads over and over again. Notably, he says, “they have changed the way of looking at life in general. They are now able to even study on their own without being pushed around. As for me, a teacher and author, this experience has awakened me to the full utilization of ICT in my teaching. I, for the first time, discovered that there exists Google classrooms, Zoom, Jisti and Google Meet. I familiarized myself with these and have since been using them.”