Our team has been working from home since 16 March. Immediately after learning about the lockdown, our team brainstormed strategies for continuing to support our learners at a distance. Our priority was starting with something that we could test, improve, and increase scale should we need to. We started with a survey via SMS to the parents of our learners to determine what medium would be most accessible for parents and learners.
Within a week, half of our parents had responded and we learned that at least 1091 of our parents had access to a smartphone with WhatsApp access, which is why we have implemented this project with WhatsApp. Social data remains the most accessible form of data access in the country and the accessibility of WhatsApp makes it the best place to start. We have since reached more of our parents and learners using this platform and continue to reach more each week.
Our distance learning project is facilitated by WhatsApp groups that are supported and managed by our coaches. Parents and learners engage with the learning content (videos prepared in English, isiXhosa, and isiZulu, worksheets, and activities) and we host facilitated consultation hours twice each week for more structured support. The mediated instruction has been well-received by parents and learners. We have also had great engagement on our Facebook page and our approach has inspired some of our partner schools and schools in provinces where we are not currently operating to use these tools at a distance and attempt a similar approach to keep their learners engaged at a distance. Our videos are compressed so that they are easily shareable on digital platforms, and they are also available on our website.
Our model has facilitated our response to the lockdown and inability to meet learners face to face. In particular, our focus on connecting with parents, our close partnerships with partner schools, our network of dedicated and enthusiastic coaches, and our innovative and passionate team have all combined to create a solution to the current challenges. Despite working at a distance for months, we are very pleased to share that our team has managed to accomplish the following:
1668 learners have received distance learning instruction and support from the Numeric team since April. These learners were not otherwise receiving academic enrichment during the lockdown period and we are proud to have been able to support them during this time.
68 coaches are engaged in our distance learning project. They are facilitating WhatsApp groups, consult time, making short instructional videos in multiple languages, creating practice activities, and learning a tremendous amount about innovation and responding to changing needs as educators.
Our digital content has been downloaded more than 2489 times from our website over the past quarter, extending our reach beyond our own beneficiaries.
We have also received some media coverage about our work during this time: an article written by UCT news, an article shared on UKZNdaba, UWC news and a segment aired on Cape Talk.