Radio listening sessions have boosted students’ learning in Mali

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Last year, COVID-19 led to the closure of all school classes in Mali, putting children at risk of falling behind with their studies.

To help students catch up with their lessons, Plan International, through the Irish Aid-funded EQuIP project, initiated a radio listening programme covering the Timbuktu area.

At schools across the region, student clubs have been set up to allow pupils to listen to radio lessons which are broadcast three times a week.

Rahmata, 11, has learnt prevention measures to help stop the spread of COVID-19

Lessons are broadcast in the morning, on subjects ranging from mathematics, to French and literacy. Under the supervision of the Ministry of Education’s regional services, students, teachers and school principals all collaborated together on the project, from its conception to the production of the radio programmes.

“The children made the programmes with their teachers; they contributed to the lessons and made suggestions to the teachers when their explanations are difficult to understand. A WhatsApp group was also created and head teachers made observations and recommendations to improve the content,” explains Abdoulaye Alhousseini, head teacher of one of the schools taking part in the project.

11-year-old Rahmata is a keen member of her school’s listening club. Like thousands of children, the school closures affected her. “When schools were closed, I couldn’t go to school anymore or see my friends; it really disrupted my year. At home, I couldn’t study because I had to help with the household chores like washing dishes, doing laundry and sweeping the yard.”

When the radio sets arrived at her school, Rahmata was quick to join her club to follow the lessons on the radio. The children listen to the classes broadcast on the radio and then complete the exercises related to the lessons they have just heard.

“I enjoy following the lessons on the radio. It has helped me with my reading and to learn French. With my brothers, we review what we have learnt at night through the radio and then do our maths and French homework together. It’s very interesting and we learn a lot,” says Rahmata who hopes to become an accountant and work in a bank.

Rahmata, 11, has her temperature taken at the school entrance

With the live radio broadcast coming to an end, schools taking part in the project have been provided with a USB key which holds all the radio lessons, this allows the teachers to relisten the programmes whenever they choose, much to the joy of the students who find learning by radio exciting and fun. The radio modules are also used as remedial courses for displaced children needing to catch up with their studies. 

“The children get excited whenever they see us bring the radios into class. They know what the radio will be used for and they love it,” says Abdoulaye.

As well as setting up the listening clubs, the schools have been provided with teaching materials, school manuals and hand washing kits to prevent the spread of COVID-19. However, “The needs of schools remain high,” explains Abdoulaye. “These include protection and security systems, remedial classes, tables and benches and school kits for the large number of displaced children and those in need.”