By HENRY OWINO (Senior Correspondent)
The schools are closed for the longest time ever in the history calendar of education in Kenya and elsewhere. This has left stakeholders in the industry without work hence rendering majority jobless, idle and seeking work.
Many teachers have resorted to businesses and other alternative means of livelihood. Parents on the other hand, bear the burden of nurturing and protecting children from Coronavirus. Many students wander in estates risking carried away by peer pressure and other influence.
At least every home, estate or village, there is a school age child staying idle without usual learning lesson processes. This is absurd considering time wastage, energy loss and skills as far as education calendar is concerned.
As the saying goes; ‘idle mind is devil’s workshop,’ most of these children are in adolescent stage, vulnerable to society decay and disorder in terms of teenage pregnancy, drug abuse and criminal activities.
To engage these young minds in resourceful activity that benefits the family and society, Dr Kenneth Mongero has come up with engaging Agri-Covid Gardens program. The innovative program aims at attracting these children and young people in learning, farming skills and networking to divert their minds from illicit thoughts.
Dr Monjero, a Kenyan Science Educator, works at Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KARLO) and he is passionate and love working with children and young people to bring about change in them. So, the interest is what drives the Scientists Educator to extend his agricultural skills to these groups for the benefit of society.
Dr Monjero has since dubbed this program as ‘Fun and Education Global Network’ (FEGNe). He emphasizes on what he calls a “minds-on and hands-on” approach to learning. He called it so because it uses fundamentals of life that are applicable to education, but packaged with fun to enhance positivity.
Program involves Covid-19 related activities and targets children age brackets of 7-14 irrespective of gender. Most training usually happens virtually to include as many children as possible to learn, have fun network. Children are trained wherever they are via zoom and mentored by FEGNe volunteers across the globe.
“We are trying to bring children and young people together to think about issues and how they relate to Covid-19 and divert their minds to remain focus so that they are happier during this pandemic situation,” Dr Monjero, explains.
According Dr Mongera, the program had started a bit earlier as pilot project within Nairobi County but it was officially launched on July 1, running for the next three months. Due to public demand from parents among other stakeholders, the program has gone online, an innovative approach to learning, reaching the globe on webinars.
“No one had thought of connecting Covid-19 to agriculture,” Dr Monjero says. “With the pandemic, more food is being consumed at home, less produced by industry due to fewer employees and poor access to farms due to travel restrictions hence my idea,” he discloses.
“The call to action involves children, youth and adults to start Agri-Covid gardens. Children undergo training and mentorship across the globe. We are attracting and teaching kids about agriculture and nutrition. We want to encourage children to engage in farming and give back to their communities,” Dr Monjero emphasizes.
“We look forward to the online Fun & Education Global Network International Conference in which children would share their Agri-Covid gardens outcome,” he adds.
Many parents report that their children are resistant to the online lessons that government is offering in the wake of shutdowns imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus. In fact, parents argue the online lessons are neither up to speed nor engaging in terms of directing their children’s schoolwork.
“It has created a lot of issues among parents and students. For me, I decided to adopt a more informal approach that kids would enjoy. So, fun comes first. We want it to be learner-oriented and full of fun experiences.” Dr Monjero explains as he demonstrates.
Parents can get their children off psychological strain on Covid-19 infection numbers, deaths, and burials among others. Focus them on innovation, creativity with live home maker space on balcony, or use sacks, old tires, large containers the list is endless.
The platform helps children to discover their unique potentialities and the process of actualization, which allows them to become the heroes and heroines they are intended to become in future.
The platform endeavors to impart adequate self-understanding as a tool to guide the young learners to making informed decisions and choices as part of problem-solving skills.
The program mostly target horticultural crops which include vegetables, fruits, mainly of annual and perennial species.
The instructors of Agri-Covid gardens use demonstrations, experiments, science shows, conversation, self-directed learning, networking, coaching, mentoring and performance. The bottom-line here is to help children achieve overall success in theory and practical part of it.
“The best way to engage young people especially concerning farming is to involve all sorts of educational skills one may think of. So, at FEGNe we also guide children in the direct application of skills, theories and models as important approach to peer learning process,”Dr Monjero clarifies.
“We are trying to engage children globally so they learn together and help each other out. We don’t just do lectures but engage them with provocative discussions that are designed to elicit a response.” He emphasizes.
According Dr Monjero, Agri-Covid gardens program expose children to hands-on learning in real-world settings. It is creative projects and independent-directed research, and in turn children apply what they gained from the applied experience to academic learning.
“Our applied learning activities may occur outside or embedded in traditional classroom experience, it becomes important to students in academic settings” he compares.
In an attempt to help children think about what they may want to do for a career, the platform helps them “look into their inner passion and drive it to actualization. Through basic, applied education and mentorship, children explore diverse environments, learn to handle issues, make decisions and adjust to change.
In general, the platform benefits children and parents by fostering innovation and creativity with limited resources, building resilience, developing international networks and encouraging home-based experimentation, online teamwork, knowledge application and the use of modern technology. Ultimately, young learners are equipped with problem-solving skills. The benefits cut across to learners, parents and industry as whole in terms of food security.
The Agri-Covid gardens program is open to children everywhere, locally, regionally and internationally. This program since then has earned Dr Monjero, a nickname Dr Fun. So, never mind when he introduces himself to you by the name.
Since Covid-19 has given an alarm of global famine catastrophy in future. Registration for Agri-Covid garden training is now open. The teaching is experiment-based learning through strong global network with sessions taking place every Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 1730-1830hours, East Africa Time (EAT).
Children not only have fun but nutritional skills, interactions and amazing re-known global presenters. FEGNe calls for global registration for everyone to establish Agri-Covid vegetable gardens. Register or visit at www.FEGNe.org or email: email@example.com or Facebook page or simply contact Dr Monjero at firstname.lastname@example.org.