Afghanistan: radio classes keep marginalised communities learning during the pandemic

12 May 2020

JRS Afghanistan is running English language lesson broadcasts on Herat-AVA radio station to reach marginalised communities.
JRS Afghanistan is running English language lesson broadcasts on Herat-AVA radio station to reach marginalised communities. (Jesuit Refugee Service)

“With the spread of the Coronavirus, we cannot study with our teachers and classmates – only from books, which is difficult,” says Halima, a student at Bamiyan university, Afghanistan.

With over 4,400 cases, COVID-19 poses a daunting challenge in Afghanistan, which is already struggling with deep-rooted poverty, violent conflict and an extremely fragile health system. In an attempt to introduce innovative means of education during the lockdown, the Ministry of Education announced its decision to start and promote distance-learning programs on April 20.

To complement this initiative, JRS launched English language lesson broadcasts (from beginner to intermediate levels), on Herat-AVA radio station on May 6. During the 30-minute broadcasts, two JRS teachers run the English lesson in a dialogical format, providing time for students to call and seek clarifications via mobile phone.

With this small step, JRS hopes to make English language learning available to as many children as possible.

“The key point is that it reaches the most marginalised, and not just city-based students; especially students who cannot travel long distances or cannot afford travel costs,” says Sakina, a JRS teacher.

The key point is that it reaches the most marginalised, and not just city-based students; especially students who cannot travel long distances or cannot afford travel costs.
Sakina, JRS teacher, Afghanistan

Due to the lack of electricity, people in remote and mountainous regions like Bamiyan have little access to TV networks, and radio broadcasts are very popular. The JRS Bamiyan team are preparing to replicate the Herat pilot radio broadcast very soon.

“I am happy that JRS plans to start English language lessons on the radio. It will be a great opportunity and will help us to continue learning even during the lockdown,” says Halima.

COVID-19 is a great threat, but students with no access to learning at home can be as much a problem. JRS hopes that the radio broadcasts will fill much of the gap that the pandemic has created.