SIAB ‘Blog in a Bag’ No. 49: How do you home-school during a lockdown in the developing world?  

It’s Sunday evening, and after a great weekend of warm weather, it is time to turn my attention to Monday morning and the prospect of home-schooling my two daughters, Evie – aged 8 and Iris – aged 6.  I open my laptop, connect to WiFi, log on to the girls’ school website and go to their respective class pages.  There, in front of me on the screen, is a time table for the week ahead and a series of worksheets and PDF lessons to download along with a number of links to website and e-resources that correspond to the lessons scheduled for each day.  In fact, Iris’s teacher has emailed me (from the new Year 1 designated email account) and sent me the lessons for the week with a covering letter wishing us a good week of learning alongside reminding us that she is there for us, should we have any questions or difficulties.

I am fortunate…I have the ability to print out the weekly timetable, worksheets and lessons and set about making up their folders in readiness for their first lesson at 09.30 the following morning…(after the online Joe Wicks PE lesson at 09.00 of course!). In 30 minutes, I have skim read through what the lessons involve and I feel confident that I can deliver a week of curriculum-based home-schooling for the mornings mixed with art, sport, science and play in the afternoons the following week.  Phew!



There is no doubt, we are incredibly lucky.  Technology, in the form of smart phones, lap tops, PC’s, the internet, WiFi, a printer and of course, dedicated teachers mean that in this new normal of learning from home, I have all the resources I need to keep the children on a path of education that is in line with the curriculum they would be learning at school.  However, I know that there are parents in the UK who do not fare so fortunately.

In a report published on the BBC website this morning, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said that when the schools return it will be in a phased manner, with the possibility of years 6, 10 and 12 going back first.  The chair of his Education Select Committee, Robert Halfon warned of a “wave of educational poverty” that could come from the lockdown and stated “every child is going to have suffered from not being in school.”  Mr Williamson also gave more details of a scheme to lend laptops to disadvantaged pupils studying at home – saying there would be 200,000 laptops, with the first expected to be delivered by the end of May, with most arriving in June.  This would help address the “digital divide” in terms of access to computer technology.

“Education Poverty” – it is amazing that the term is being brandished after less than six weeks in lockdown without school, with two of these weeks being the Easter holidays where I suspect, home schooling was put on hold for a breather!  It is equally incredible that the term is being used to describe the state of the education in the UK, one of the richest and most developed countries in the world, complete with an abundance of technology, online resources and of course fantastic dedicated teachers all working in unison to keep education on track during this pandemic lockdown!!

We have been dealing with, and working to improve Education Poverty for the last 10 years, working in countries that are at the other end of the wealth and development spectrum to us here in the UK.  In Swaziland, if the children got to school, they were given ONE pencil to last them for the entire academic year, whilst in so many of the countries we work to support, if the children have nothing to write with and nothing to write on, they simply try to remember the lessons they are taught.  Our SchoolBags are critical to improving the very basic level of learning of simply being able to write, draw, calculate, colour, be creative, express feeling and of course, have that work checked by the teacher.  The vast majority of the school children we provide SchoolBags for are educated in a classroom (of sorts), by a single teacher with blackboard.  (Think education in the UK in the early 1900’s for a comparison).

And now, just like us, those schools are shut and the children are in lockdown. And guess what?…millions of teachers around the world won’t have the incredible technological channels that we have to help them keep their children on track with their education.

So how do you home school your children remotely with limited or no resources, both physical and digital?  This is a question I presented to our partners around the world two weeks ago, to check in with them and to see how they were coping.



Partner Charity:  Pamoja Leo
Founder:  Georgina Harris HillWe had a donor pay for printing ink so we could start providing work sheets. We only have enough for about 1 month but it helps for now. We gave each child two crayons and an exercise book to take home. We drive every week to visit the most at risk children to deliver food and work sheets.  It is 6 hours to our furthest family! So, it’s a pretty crazy journey to get to some – we have a route that we do every other week to reach them and it’s on the muddiest dirt track ever – there is even a small, but real risk of lions in the area! Which means when I did the route last week, I refused to get out to help push the car when it got stuck!We held a meeting with some caregivers and gave ideas of things they can do but 72% of the caregivers are illiterate themselves.We had gifts set aside for Christmas and Eid that we gave the kids early that had puzzles and plasticine in it so they have something to play with at home. Only 1 family we work with has electricity so that limits options in a big way!Tanga Tanzania

Partner:  Yala Fund
Founder:  Jon AshworthIn early March, schools were closed amid rumours that the virus was spreading in Colombo schools. The Govt has just announced a tentative date for schools to reopen on 11th May, although that could be pushed back. So, for 2 months, effectively, Sri Lankan school children will have been stuck at home with no online support and only the initiative of parents to fall back on. More enlightened parents have put some of the day aside for doing test papers and some home tuition, but the poorer families – often single-parent families or living with grandparents – are just waiting until schools reopen.There are questions about A/L exams coming up in August. The Govt insists that they will go ahead but time is ticking on.SIERRA LEONE
Partner Charity:  EducAid
Founder:  Miriam MasonWe are flat out scripting and recording radio lessons for national broadcast.Very busy days.WE have a small number of kids for whom our school is also their home – they are here listening to the radio lessons this morning.

Partner: Merona Foundation
Founder: Cynthia Oteng

Ghana, like most countries in the world, has ordered all schools to close to try and stop the spread of COVID-19.  Many schools have also asked parents to ensure that learning continues at home. Online learning is an obvious way to keep lessons going; however, only a few schools have well-established online learning systems.
Additional challenges for some parents include connectivity problems, limited data access and power blackouts. For many parents, taking on their children’s education is a daunting prospect. 

For most rural schools the introduction of the Ghana Learning Television (GL TV) by the Ghana Education Services to educate pupils from primary to Senior High Levels will kind of help a little, however, most rural community dwellers have no television in their homes. To put it more succinctly, the lockdown has gravely affected learning among young people especially in our rural settings.

Partner:  Helambu Education Livelihood Partnership
Founder:  Jimmy Lama

On Monday, I was fortunate to be part of a Zoom meeting with Jimmy and 18 of his work associates and supporting partners where, alongside commemorating the 5-year anniversary of the Nepal earthquakes we discussed the prospect of home schooling.  The outcomes and thought processes were:

  1. Could lessons be recorded for radio transmission? This is challenging as many teachers wouldn’t have the facilities to record.
  2. Could they invite Nepalese celebrities to record stories that they could stream via facebook?  Yes, but only a minority audience of those with smart phones (and data) would be able to see them.
  3. Could they set up quarantined schools?  In this idea students and teachers all stayed together in school so that learning could continue.  It is a radical suggestion that teachers and parents would have to be agreeable to.  But, schools aren’t equipped with feeding/sleeping/medicinal facilities so probably a non-starter.
  4. Could teachers call parents to offer lesson/learning advice? Yes, as most parents (and some students) have mobile phones.

The outcome, directed through No. 4 was that it is vital to try and keep a level of teaching going.  Teachers phoning parents would be extremely helpful and show go leadership qualities. (For the record, Evie and Iris’s teachers call each week to check in on their learning and it shows a wonderful level of care!)

One thing that was overridingly clear from our Zoom chat was that the teaching methods need to be kept simple for the teachers in Nepal.  I explained how in some of the maths exercises we had been working through, you didn’t need actual learning resources, just everyday household items to help with simple arithmetic so being creative, adaptable and working with what you have is better than doing nothing.



Of course, if we could have sent all of the children we support through our partners in to lockdown with a fully resourced SchoolBag it would have made an unsurmountable difference to their ability to continue learning from home.  We are, at this current time powerless to provide SchoolBags…but we can still support our partners financially to do what they can to provide education during this extraordinary time.

You know what is coming…


We recently posted the 3 Peaks Lockdown Staircase Challenge on our facebook page as an idea to raise funds.  The idea is to go up and down your stair case a number of times to mirror the elevation gain for the summits of Ben Nevis in Scotland, Scafell Pike in England and Mount Snowdon in Wales.

Well, I have taken our own advice and on Saturday, the plan is to have a crack at all three staircase mountains back to back to back to raise some funds for our partners. As the staircase to the office is 2.2 metres high, I need to go up and down them 1,513 times.

If you have some spare change and want to help us continue to Transform Lives Through Education during the lockdown, please visit the fundraising page.  Thank you in anticipation.

Good luck with your continued home-schooling efforts and thank you to all of the brilliant teachers who are working hard to make our attempts at teaching our children less painful.  We know it is not easy, but please do spare a thought for our fantastic partners around the world who are doing their best, in some very challenging circumstances.
Thank you for your continued support.  Please stay safe and well.
Luke Simon



School in a Bag is a charity born out of the Piers Simon Appeal, a charity set-up by Founder & CEO, Luke Simon, in memory of his older brother Piers, who lost his life in the Boxing Day tsunami in 2004. To date, over 118,500 SchoolBags have been distributed to children in 45 countries around the world, giving them the necessary tools to be able to attend school and therefore have a lifeline out of poverty and hardship. Equally, if they have been affected by war or a natural disaster and had to flee their home, the SchoolBags provide the tools to be able to gain some stability and normality back in their lives by attending school. To see more of the work we do, please take a look at our website: