By now, we’re all familiar with the disruption to education that the Coronavirus pandemic has brought. Around the world, students are adjusting to virtual education or, in many cases, are out of school altogether. And it’s not only affecting students but teachers too. In Peru, many teachers have been unfamiliar with technology in the classroom, and often schools are ill-equipped to deploy online resources for assignments. One school has even been delivering homework on moto-taxis to their students.
As this pandemic continues to surge through the world, technology will need to be embraced to continue student learning and also keep schools from shutting their doors permanently.
Globally, WhatsApp, a free messaging service, continues to be one of the most valuable tools for Edify partner schools. WhatsApp is the world’s most popular messaging app with close to 2 billion active monthly users. In terms of the number of users, it eclipses Facebook Messenger and almost double other popular apps like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok. At any given moment, 1 billion people are communicating on WhatsApp at an average of 65 billion messages a day.
In many countries, messaging platforms use data, which can cost up to 3x as much as data plans in the US and text messaging costs extra to send things like images or videos. In Peru, WhatsApp is free and doesn’t charge data or standard messaging rates. This makes WhatsApp an incredibly powerful tool schools can utilize for assignments. Teachers can deliver videos, notes, homework, and other resources students need without needing internet.
“WhatsApp is a lifesaver for many teachers,” shares Jason Morveli, Peru Christian Training and Transformation Officer. “They were unprepared for online classes, and many teachers only have basic smartphones with little storage. They can’t download Zoom or Google Meet, because of their internet access, so WhatsApp has saved their teaching. Because Zoom sets time limits on meetings, WhatsApp is the only app teachers are using right now. Later, other platforms will be introduced and utilized, but right now, WhatsApp is fundamental for so many teachers. The pandemic has pushed teachers and proprietors to actually use technology for delivering education.”
If this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we need to build resiliency and continue to find new solutions to challenges. Jason and the Edify Peru team have developed and are deploying a specific training called “The Pedagogical Use of WhatsApp”, and it’s exploded in popularity and number of attendees. Since May, every month, over 400 proprietors and teachers have completed the training. “We started with 50-60 people in a training. Now, Edify’s Zoom account caps our trainings at 300 people, though many more than that sign up. We are going to re-transmit these trainings on free platforms so they can reach even more people.”
In the past several months, online education has been a hurdle and leap for almost every country on earth. Going into a new school year, it still faces considerable challenges. Edify has continued to listen to school proprietors and teachers on the resources and training they need to feel confident in the education they’re delivering. In Peru, over 1,200 educators have been trained and equipped, and the numbers keep growing. We’ll keep listening, responding, and solving alongside them as they deliver Christ-centered education to students virtually.