Lessons Learned from Civil Society in Times of COVID-19



  • Thaki

  • April 23, 2021

Civil society has varied meanings and forms. It takes shape in Thaki with our mission to empower refugee and vulnerable children to learn and thrive through self-paced, motivational electronic educational tools. We source gently used devices from organizations who no longer need them and give the devices new life by adding interactive multilingual learning content for all ages.

 

The various challenges of the past eighteen months have pushed all of us to explore our limits, our creativity, and our connectivity with each other and with ourselves.

 

So what are some of the major lessons we learned this year?

 

 

 

Put egos aside.

 

Be it in times of crises or calm, we humans tend to impose. With the best of intentions, we often elect to do what we know, and what has proven to work in similar (or even dissimilar) contexts. Even if we examine a situation and ask, "what solution is needed here?" We do so with an anticipated answer already in mind. With school closures, the Thaki team had to step back from imposing our own vision of what digital learning should look like, and instead listen to those who were doing it day in and day out amidst the ongoing crises. Initially, we imagined schools lending out laptops directly to students for remote learning. We conjured an idyllic image of siblings neatly sharing the device, teaching one another, and discovering newfound interests. The reality was starkly different. Devices sat in locked school buildings. Children argued for access to the family's single mobile device. Data plans were quickly exhausted. Service was poor and frequent power cuts left devices unable to charge. The realization that the laptops were not being utilized naturally came with a sting of feeling inadequate. Yet, when we put our egos aside, we came to our second lesson…

 

 

 

Consider the obvious.

 

In this unprecedented situation, the obvious answer was overlooked. Instead of lending laptops to students, we simply pivoted to equip their teachers. This reassignment of resources allowed teachers to use Thaki devices to plan lessons delivered via Whatsapp and other communication platforms. They digitized worksheets and other "hard copy" resources, recorded songs that were sung in classrooms, recreated videos in shareable formats, and reimagined hands on activities with household items. By witnessing teachers and school communities supporting one another, we drew inspiration for yet another lesson.. .

 

 

 

Collaboration is key.

 

We learned that times of crises can bring about beautiful collaborations that were previously unexplored. When it became apparent that schools and education centers would be closed for an extended period of time, digital learning suddenly was no longer a luxury, but absolutely essential. Demand for device donations immediately outpaced the supply, and we found ourselves unable to source the amount of devices required. Collaborating with other like-minded organizations was ultimately the solution needed. Together, we were able to better serve our teachers and students. Ultimately, we know that challenges never stop. For us, that only means that we continue to learn and grow.

 

 

 

 

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DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in this blog are the author's, and do not reflect the views of the Global Health Institute or the American University of Beirut.

 

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South of Global Health is a blog of the Global Health Institute at the American University of Beirut which tackles the Global South’s most pressing health issues across multiple intersectional themes. The blog intends to serve as an outlet for health-related issues affecting and originating from the most vulnerable regions of the developing world.

 

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