Given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic many countries globally are under lockdown in a bid to ‘flatten the curve’ and slow down the rate of transmission of the virus. This unprecedented time in our history has undoubtedly had an adverse effect on traditional educational learning. With calls for social distancing and many schools having already taken learning online, we as a society are being presented with the idea that the classroom is no longer a physical space in time. Instead we are now being challenged with exploring other non-traditional methods of facilitating learning, namely online. 

Just because students can no longer attend their classes at the physical locations of their schools does not mean the learning should not, and cannot continue.

At Classroom Buddies our volunteer tutors continue assisting the learners via WhatsApp everyday. The tutors have been paired with at least four learners in each subject. The sessions then cover class notes & content, work exercises, past exam question papers. There is no time limit or time table, but rather works at the availability of the tutor.

This system also works for the kids really well because they now have access to the tutors anytime they need help, even if they may have to wait for a response, and actively encourages engaging and sharing content with them in a way that they are already familiar with. We have not placed any restrictions on either party and generally the tutors prefer to conduct their own sessions in a way that works for both themselves and the students. We have only asked them to report back every weekend on any challenges they’ve faced and we provide support in terms of study materials.

WhatsApp is the most popular app used in South Africa with 87% of internet users aged 16 to 64 using it within the past month.

According to Digital 2020 report by Hootsuite & We Are Social, WhatsApp is the most popular app used in South Africa with 87% of internet users aged 16 to 64 using it within the past month. It is also the most cost effective for many of our learners who come from lower-income households and may not have an accessible wifi connection at home. This is an even bigger advantage given that South Africa pays some of the highest data costs compared to the rest of the continent. WhatsApp has proved to be effective and efficient for our context as it allows communication via video and voice calls, group and individual messaging, file sharing and voice notes making it a much more viable alternative for our learners compared to the online platforms such as Microsoft Teams, Google Hangouts, Skype and Zoom which tend to use up more data when connecting from a smartphone device.