What does the evidence say? Distance Learning and the GC-DWC Haiti’s Radio program

While digital access and literacy are becoming increasingly necessary, 3.7 billion people, most of them women and people living in low-income countries, lack internet access (UN). Globally, internet access runs the gamut from 14.3% of people in Africa to 76.4% of people in Central Asia (Brookings). The inequity embedded in global society due to the gap between those who have internet access and those who do not is referred to as the digital divide. 

The digital divide is especially salient in Haiti, where a mere 35% of the population uses broadband internet (World Bank). A gender dimension is also apparent, with 7% of women and girls possessing the ability to access the internet (World Bank). However, radio is a prevalent and accessible mode of communication throughout Haiti, with 19 out of 20 Haitians listening to 375 radio stations (CDAC Network). 

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Haiti launched a distance learning program for continued education in spite of pandemic. However, this was and continues to be heavily reliant on internet access, which is lacking throughout Haiti.  

The Global Center for the Development of the Whole Child (GC-DWC) saw an opportunity, in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, to leverage the wide reach of radio to empower children across Haiti with access to quality education. Collaborating with Catholic Relief Services Haiti (CRS) and the Episcopal Commission for Catholic Education (CEEC), it implemented and continues to deploy a strategy consisting of three radio programs: a literacy program, a reading hour program, and a pre-K social and emotional learning (SEL) and parent engagement program. The programs, delivered in both Haitian Creole and French, engage students enrolled in pre-K through second grade in SEL themed lessons, interactive activities, and strategies for parents to support their children’s education. 

To date, GC-DWC’s radio programming has demonstrated a positive impact. Monitoring of listening patterns and comprehension abilities for 120 children revealed that children were able to recall and understand broader themes of the radio programming content and correctly answer questions regarding friendship, hygiene, and collaboration. The GC-DWC will continue to monitor the outcomes of its programming and adapt program structure and content to ensure optimal buy-in and uptake from teachers, parents, and students. 

With recent earthquake and school damage, in addition to school closures, there is an urgent need for distance learning in affected areas, a need the GC-DWC is positioned to address. The GC-DWC continues to produce high quality radio programming for students throughout Haiti and will imminently expand distance learning capacity by piloting resource centers that will provide school communities with internet and digital materials. These programs represent hope in not only mitigating the inequity stemming from the digital divide, but conveying life skills and knowledge which will equip children despite time out of school. 

Check out the GC-DWC’s comprehensive resources for each of its radio programs (Literacy Program, Reading Hour, Pre-K SEL and Parent Engagement) and its Haiti Radio Programming summary page to learn more.