It has been over five months since the world reeled in collective shock over the discovery and the weight of the CoronaVirus. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID- 19 a pandemic.
WHO Director-General’s opening remarks at the media briefing on COVID-19 – 11 March 2020
And from that point on, life as we knew it was turned on its head. We were ushered into a new normal of lock-downs, mask-wearing, and furious sanitizing.
Schools all over the world were closed indefinitely. Parents now had to find ways to work from home and still keep sane. At Photo Start, our work and operations were not spared either. Our program partners, who are also our hosts, both in Kenya and South Africa, were forced to shut down after their governments confirmed cases of COVID- 19 in both countries.
FIRST CASE OF COVID-19 CORONAVIRUS REPORTED IN SA
FIRST CASE OF CORONAVIRUS DISEASE CONFIRMED IN KENYA
Inasmuch as it has been hard to be away and miss the daily interactions with our students, this period has been one of steep learning & readjusting. We have always considered the Photo Start team a glass-half-full kind of people, and this crisis proved us right. The new normal caused us to go back to the drawing board and find alternative ways to continue serving the communities that we work with. It has been an exciting journey of coming to terms with the fact that we may not have physical classes in a very long while. We, therefore, had no choice but to consider making the transition to the online space.
One of the greatest needs expressed by our partners has been finding a way to keep the learners busy and engaged enough to discourage deviance. Through our photography & mentorship programs, Photo Start had helped meet this need before COVID- 19. But with schools closed and so much free, ungoverned time on their hands, our partners were sufficiently worried about the students’ well-being. This was one of the key drivers of our shift online.
Photo Start works with partners within low-income settlements where the students we serve live. Our biggest concern, then, was how the students would access the online classes. To participate in the online classes, a student would require a smartphone and internet.
In areas where access to Wi-Fi is almost nil, affordable internet bundles are the surest way for our students to continue learning. We are still looking for ways to include every student by ensuring they have access to a smartphone and internet bundles.
On Wednesday, 19 August 2020, we celebrated World Photography Day by launching our online curriculum. Even more exciting was that our pilot was with a brand new group of students, from a group known as WarSpark. These are youths aged between 16-24 years who are looking to turn their lives around.
We are excited to see how this new path takes us, and we will share the journey and learnings along the way.