A Capabilities Response to the Design and Delivery of Distance Learning for the Most Educationally Marginalized Children during COVID-19Kate Sykes
- General Medicine
The Transformational Empowerment for Adolescent Marginalised Girls in Malawi (TEAM) project provides complementary basic education to adolescents who have been left behind by the mainstream education system. Its students are primarily girls who face multiple intersecting barriers to learning, including disability, child marriage, motherhood, poverty, and harmful gender norms. Distance learning provided by the Government of Malawi during the COVID-19 pandemic relied on students proactively accessing centrally created lessons through technologies such as radio and the internet. In this field note, I argue that such an approach does not meet the needs of the most educationally marginalized children, who require holistic support to overcome barriers arising from their individual characteristics, available resources, and lived environment. I contrast the mainstream approach with the TEAM Girl Malawi response, which used a capabilities framework that led to three key innovations. First, a paper-based mode of delivery was complemented by in-person support from teachers. Second, the lesson content prioritized resilience and social-emotional skills as the foundation for learning, and teachers adapted a core curriculum to individual students' learning needs. Third, teachers' roles were expanded to include child protection and community engagement. I conclude this field note by identifying learning points based on students' experiences and learning outcomes, which demonstrate how future distance learning responses during a pandemic can be inclusive of all learners.