Equipped for a Crisis
Many teachers, students, and families have grown weary of remote learning throughout the coronavirus pandemic—but when schools in Nigeria were told by the government that they could re-open for in-person learning, educators were left with a daunting task.
How would they welcome back students, faculty, and staff in a way that would prevent the spread of Covid-19 and keep everyone safe and healthy?
Eight teacher trainers working with Mark Wiersma, a Resonate Global Mission missionary, sprang into action to help schools prepare a safe restart in Nigeria. They teach at different local schools, but unite as a team to use Educational Care methods and materials in leading professional improvement for over 20 schools in Nigeria’s central Plateau State.
That kind of mobilization is what Educational Care is all about, said Wiersma.
Educational Care is a curriculum of Raise Up Global Ministries that Resonate missionaries such as Mark Wiersma use to equip teachers with best practices and biblical principles for primary and secondary schools.
In Nigeria, as well as many countries throughout Sub-Saharan Africa and the world, teachers are pushed in front of classes with little professional training and few resources. As a result, they often have little esteem for their own jobs and are working unaware of how to best manage classes or help their students learn.
“Kindergarten through university, education is basically: Copy the notes on the board and memorize them so you can regurgitate the answers on an exam,” said Wiersma. “Basically, those low expectations leave most teachers convinced they’re likewise to do only what they’re told and then wait for further orders.”
That’s why the very first lesson of Educational Care training encourages teachers to dive into Scripture and understand teaching through a biblical lens. Teachers come to understand the influence they can have in the lives of their students. They learn best practices and biblical principles for decision making, and in each of six training sessions, they identify a persistent challenge in their classroom and develop an action plan to help improve the situation. Then they put their plans into action.
“The aspect of recognizing a problem and then accepting responsibility to improve that situation is usually a new concept and a bold step,” said Wiersma.
During the Covid-19 lockdown in Nigeria, Mark Wiersma saw the teacher trainers he works with take that bold step.
Wiersma’s job is not only to arrange and lead Educational Care training sessions himself, but to train more educators in Nigeria to lead these trainings among their peers. When the trainers heard that schools could reopen, they noticed a lack of clear directions on how schools should prepare to welcome back students, faculty, and staff in-person. So, they decided to provide that training.
The trainers Wiersma works with met socially distanced outside with a someone who specializes in Covid-19. They learned more about the virus, how it spreads, and how to prevent it. Then, the trainers developed a brief training for 32 schools in the area.
“They did an excellent job,” said Mark Wiersma.
At each training, the Educational Care trainers showed staff how to set up and sanitize classrooms, dormitories, and other school spaces for re-opening.
“At one of the schools, the most interactive person of all was the head cleaner. That lady got it. She understood that the safety and health of dozens if not hundreds of people were going to hang on her work and the work of those who she supervised,” said Wiersma. “It really made an impression on the trainers. This one, whose community status is generally ignored, asked more questions than any other person at any other school they visited.”
While these trainings were apart from typical sessions that Mark Wiersma and Resonate normally facilitate, this team-initiated service gave significant and timely support to Christian schools in their communities. It’s part of the commitment Resonate and the CRC have made to walk alongside partner Christian schools.
Perhaps most importantly, said Mark Wiersma, this team-directed work affirmed how Educational Care methods and content can “transform renewal of the mind” (Romans 12:1-2) when stepping out of comfort zones to join biblical principles with choices for best practices.
“The activities of Educational Care teacher training are recognized as great assets for schools,” said Mark Wiersma, “and that is spreading to more regions of Nigeria.”