Chipego, 17, a pupil at Mabwe Atuba Secondary School

Learning through radio amid Covid-19

Supporting adolescent girls with life skills, mentorship and career opportunites.

On a bright sunny day, learners gather around a small solar-powered radio set under a shady tree, in the deepest parts of rural Choma District in Southern Zambia.

Equipped with pens and notebooks in their hands, they carefully listen to the recorded radio lessons as they take down notes. If they find any of the lessons hard to understand, they replay the soundtracks and listen again.
These are learners at Mabwe Atuba Secondary School and members of the careers club who have formed a radio listening group.

Pupils at Mabwe Atuba Secondary School during a radio listening session.
Pupils at Mabwe Atuba Secondary School during a radio listening session

The lessons and other programmes that we listen to on the radio help us to identify and choose our career. I want to become a medical doctor.

Chipego, 17, pupil at Mabwe Atuba Secondary School.

The Covid-19 situation.

The Covid-19 pandemic forced the government to close schools throughout the country. The closure of the schools affected Chipego and other learners in the rural areas who had no access to the internet for online learning. Worse for Chipego, her village, Mabwe Atuba, did not have radio signals.

But as it became clear schools would not reopen soon, Restless Development Zambia began to explore alternative ways to continue with the running of career clubs and continued learning for young people like Chipego.

Learning through radio.

Radio was the obvious choice yet for learners like Chipego, this option was beyond reach because of the lack of radio signal in her village. Luckily, Chipego was a member of the careers club at her school run by Restless Development Zambia.

In order to continue to promote career and skills development for rural learners amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, Restless Development Zambia, working with the Ministry of General Education, decided to pilot pre-recorded lessons broadcast at local radio stations. Lessons were delivered by role models such as local professionals and business owners. The radio programs are part of the Covid-19 response efforts designed to promote information on career counseling, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship skills amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

Working with partners.

As well as working with the Ministry of General Education, Restless Development Zambia delivered the Zambian Girls 2030 project with support from UNICEF, working together to design the radio programs that would ensure continuity of learning in the career clubs for rural learners like Chipego.

Using equipment Restless Development supplied, Chipego and her friends can listen to recorded radio lessons despite having missed out on live broadcast radio lessons because of lack of signal in her area.

Chipego with a solar powered radio cassette during a radio listening group session

When the school closed, I was sad because I didn’t have the opportunity to learn about entrepreneurship in the career clubs; something I always wanted to learn. I was excited to learn that I could still be in the careers clubs by listening to the radio programmes. The radio is now like our teacher.

Chipego, 17, pupil at Mabwe Atua Secondary School.

Chipego’s teacher.

Her teacher, Mr. Mwiinga, coordinates the radio listening group. He is a Guidance and Counselling teacher who has been trained by Restless Development Zambia to manage the school career clubs.

During the radio sessions, Mr. Mwiinga takes the learners through the lessons, occasionally pausing to consume the instructions being played on the radio before relaying the same to the learners.

Mr. Mwiinga, a teacher takes learners through a radio program at Mabwe Atuba School in Choma

The radio sessions.

Each radio lesson is approximately 30 minutes long and focuses on interactive learning. Lessons are designed so students can participate on their own, but teachers are encouraged to listen in and support learning during the lessons.

When tuning in, the learners are welcomed to their radio classroom with a friendly introduction. The learners are prompted to grab their pens and notebooks, and each lesson begins with a review of the previous radio lesson. After a short review, the teacher provides a short lecture, with frequent opportunities for learners to engage. Each lesson concludes with a summary, then a farewell by the teacher, and an indication of the next lesson topic.

With the introduction of the radio programs, most learners have demonstrated improved understanding through their ability to articulate the different topics and apply the knowledge acquired.

Mr Mwiinga

Working with a local radio station, Choma Maanu FM, Restless Development Zambia supports the production and airing of radio lessons for the career clubs in Choma district.

The idea was to continue to promote career and skills development for rural learners considering reduced physical learning, limited access to computers, and internet connectivity. We looked into the practical innovations and decided to pilot pre-recorded lessons broadcast at local radio stations inviting role models such as local professionals and business owners

Mwiche Namukulwa, programme coordinator, Restless Development Zambia.

Now in her last year of secondary school, Chipego is happy she can continue learning in the careers club so she can pursue her goal of becoming a doctor.

Hannah is secretary of the radio listening group.

Here in the rural areas, it is difficult to meet someone who can inspire you to chose a certain career but when role models speak to us on radio, we are motivated. Learning about careers on the radio is great. A lot of role models get to talk to us about how they have succeeded in their careers.

Hannah

Catherine is another member of the radio listening group.

Listening to the recorded radio programs has exposed me to different career choices. I have learned a lot of things which I always share with family and friends.

Catherine

And for John who spent most of his time working at the farm when schools closed, the radio programs are helping him realize his dream of becoming an entrepreneur.

John, after a radio listening group session.

I spent most of my days working on the farm with little or no focus on my education, feeling isolated. Then one month after we had been out of school, my friends told me that there was a radio listening group in the careers club. I was very excited that day and I joined the group.When I first attended, the topic was about entrepreneurship. I have always wanted to become a businessman and so the topic was very important to me.

John

After attending the radio lessons, John has started his entrepreneurship journey by starting to keep goats and chickens of his own at the farm.

The radio recorded lessons are helping many children in rural areas develop the skills needed to pursue their careers.

More about the Zambian Girls 2030 Project.

Zambian Girls 2030 aims to increase the number of girls attending and completing their secondary education. At the same time, we support girls’ career aspirations and help them to make informed decisions about their sexual health. 

We run weekly career and skills clubs in schools to help girls take control of their lives by safely navigating the issues that most commonly lead to them dropping out.

These clubs cover issues such as Sexual and Reproductive Health (enabling young girls to make informed decisions around their sexual health),  financial literacy and livelihoods (equipping them with the basic skills required to set up an enterprise), and career guidance and counseling (enabling them to identify and achieve their career aspirations). 

We also facilitate a two-week Career Internship Programme.  Young girls are helped skill build through these internships. They are also encouraged to create connections in industries they have identified as potential career paths.