2020 isn’t stopping Esther, and it isn’t stopping us


At the beginning of this year, Esther was a 4th grader at the BT Primary School of Kisaluwoko and struggling with math. When the COVID-19 pandemic caused her school to close in March, her access to classroom instruction suddenly vanished, but her struggles with math didn’t. 

That didn’t stop Esther.

She signed up for our Roots to Rise distance learning program and using her parents’ phone, received numeracy lessons from Building Tomorrow Fellow Dorah Mukundane. Through two months of lessons over the phone like mind mapping, counting with sticks & bundles, and word problems,   Esther no longer struggles with basic addition and subtraction. Now she can easily carry over and borrow while adding and subtracting large numbers, and after continuous lessons and assessment, Esther has progressed all the way to learning how to divide and multiply.

Esther and her mother participate in a numeracy lesson involving sticks over the phone. Esther’s mother provided consent for use of this photo

Just like the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t stop Esther, Building Tomorrow continues to push forward. 

Nearly nine million primary-school-aged children have been out of school in Uganda since March 20, and the need to provide educational opportunities to stave off severe learning reversals is greater than ever. Based on lessons of the past, including West Africa’s Ebola crisis in 2014-2016, the global education community anticipates widespread learning materials, like in the rural, underserved areas where Building Tomorrow works. Building Tomorrow is responding to the challenge by:

  • Launching the Tomorrow is Now initiative to scale up our Community Education Volunteer model and enact systems-level change. We have hired and deployed 16 talented Building Tomorrow Fellows alumni as Technical Advisors to support officials in 62 Sub-Counties across 5 districts. Together, they will work to enroll out-of-school children and bring learners up to grade level in literacy and numeracy once schools fully reopen.

  • Utilizing our energetic and dynamic Building Tomorrow Fellows to deliver Roots to Rise literacy and numeracy lessons by phone. To date, we have delivered 5,629 lessons to 869 learners.

  • Developing an interactive voice recognition tool to offer automated, free Roots to Rise lessons through basic mobile phones. The lessons will be accessible anytime, anywhere by learners and their families and will benefit especially learners with very low literacy levels who cannot access digital and other forms of distance learning materials.

We believe children like Esther, and the millions of others that remain out of school, have the right to a quality education, no matter the circumstance, and we are innovating to meet needs now and in the future. As a supporter of Building Tomorrow, we thank you for sharing in that belief. 

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