Responding to the Covid-19 Pandemic to Build a Better World – By K. L. Chew

Responding to the Covid-19 Pandemic to Build a Better World

By K. L. Chew

In early 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the world. In Indonesia, the early childhood teacher training project, run by AMURT Indonesia, was running full steam ahead when the government ordered all early childhood schools to shut down from 16 March, and instructed people to avoid gatherings.

In response to the crisis, we re-oriented our program of activities, and decided to make combating the dangerous impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic the theme of all our activities for second quarter 2020 and beyond as necessary. These activities include our teacher training, study circle, parenting and community programs covering 30 schools in 21 villages with 1,300+ students and 127 educators (teachers, school managers and school principals). Through 21 Community Care Committees (KPP) in our network of mentored villages, AMURT’s potential reach can come up to tens of thousands of people.

Our team of fulltime and part-time personnel immediately realized that this was the time to redouble their commitment to serving the community as far as their expanded hearts and minds could stretch.

The scientific approach was already an important, if less understood, element of the Indonesian curriculum. Now more than ever, it must be brought to the fore. Scouring the internet, social media and other sources, our Program staff compiled or produced educational materials (video clips, posters, jingles, documents, audio recordings, etc.) on Covid-19 and best practices in mitigating the pandemic.

To combat the virus transmission, we initiated a different transmission – one of scientific, evidence-based knowledge that our teachers, parents, children and village activists can act on. The materials include the proper way to wash one’s hands, the importance of observing social (or rather physical) distancing, wearing a mask whenever one goes out, how to make masks, eating nutritious meals to stay healthy and boost one’s immune system, productive and fun stay-at-home activities for children, life-skill activities, parent-child bonding activities, etc.

Washing hands the proper way

Even baby brother has learnt the proper way to wash hands

We have 2 transmission channels:
1) The Teacher Channel runs from AMURT staff to our Community Organiser Team (7 persons each in charge of 1 sub district) to Educators (127 persons in 30 schools in 21 villages in 7 sub districts) to Parents (1,300 parents) to Children (1,300 persons plus their brothers, sisters and other family members).

2) The Community Channel runs from AMURT staff to our Community Organiser Team to our KPP (Early Childhood Community Care Committees) Network in 21 villages. Each KPP consists of 6 key village activists (usually including the village headman).

To observe social (physical) distancing, all these transmissions had to be done via virtual training/meeting sessions. Since our project area is one without widespread computer ownership and home-based wifi, we had to rely on WhatsApp on mobile phones. Each session became marathon affairs lasting three, and oftentimes, many more hours. To reach 21 villages and 1,300 parents, a superhuman effort was required! By God’s grace, we have a superhuman team and a network of people who understand the urgency of transferring to their communities at large, the important information and best practices in mitigating the effects of Covid-19.

At the end of the Teacher Channel, parents share and teach their children (and other family members) the materials received, and send back video clips or snapshots of their children implementing what they have been taught.

For the Community Channel, the end target we are aiming for is that each of the 21 villages will conduct a Village Community Project/Event (obviously with appropriate social distancing) to share the knowledge and combat Covid-19 spread in their villages and surrounding areas. The Village Community Project/Event is an annual event on our project calendar. For 2020, the original schedule was to hold it in November, but we hope to bring it forward to second quarter 2020 to meet the urgent challenge of combating Covid-19.

All masked up and sunning in the garden with Granny for Vit D

Washing my own clothes – helping mama and learning life-skills during stay at home

Look at the mask my mama bought for me!

Our emergency program is scheduled to run from April to May, and possibly through June 2020. It is early days yet, and we still do not know how our ambitious Covid-19 Mitigation program will turn out. However some of the early results are already coming in from the Teacher Channel which was launched before the Community Channel program. The flood of video clips we have received of children washing their hands, helping in household chores, playing in their household compound to expose themselves to Vitamin D from the sun, eating well-balanced nutritious meals, making Stay-at-Home Agreement Statements with their parents, etc. are a joy to review. Best of all, the exercise is achieving one of our primary project objectives – inspiring and empowering parents to play an active role in their children’s development!

In the Chinese script, the character for the word “crisis” is a combination of the words for “danger” and “opportunity”. By Grace, may we seize the opportunity arising from the danger of the Covid-19 crisis to bring about a more neohumanist, proutistic world.

Parents implementing stay-@-home activities with their children – what they had learned from the “online” session with their assigned teacher: helping with watering plants, cooking and folding clothes

“Sá vidyá yá vimuktaye - Education is that which liberates”