Project imparts photography skills to learners

Monday, August 3rd, 2020 00:00 |
Esther Gacicio, MSTTL project manager. Photo/PD/Courtesy

Irene Githinji @gitshee

Coronavirus outbreak caught everyone off guard and not even the young learners were spared.

Owing to high infections of the deadly respiratory disease, children have been away from school for over four months now.

Learners have been forced to embrace virtual learning. Esther Gacicio Edtech Consultant and co-founder of eLearning Solutions Limited (ELS) saw the new norm in learning as an opportunity to introduce a project to keep learners occupied and ease the tension of the long schools closures.

Esther who is also the project manager, ‘My Story Through The Lens (MSTTL) project in Kenya says that the initiative targets learners aged between 14-16 .

Under the project participants learn how to use photography to capture moments in their daily lives, redirect their energies and relieve stress an aspect Gacicio says is important of the mental health of the learners.

“When schools are closed, many children and youth miss out on social contact that is essential to learning and development hence social isolation,” explains Gacicio.

All the students require to enroll into the project is a computer, a working e-mail address, access to a phone or camera and most importantly parental consent. 

Virtual learning under the project that kick started in April  this year, the learners were taught on the basics in photography, including its history and how to take good photos.

They were also taught different aspects of photography, including creative writing through the lens.

Every week of the training learners tackled a specific theme and tasks to acquire different skills through confined and window sessions.

“For the confined session, learners were required to take pictures of their surrounding and write a story of what was going through their mind.

The window session, on the other hand, they were to take as many photos as possible of what they could see from their window and compose creative write-up from it,” explains Gacicio.

The learners had to avail themselves at least twice a week for a combined virtual session, lasting for about an hour.

“During these sessions, participants were given weekly assignments to accomplish with the help of their tutors.

The end product of the project was to have each participant with a portfolio of their stories per theme, which can be showcased in an exhibition,” says Gacicio.

Gacicio, says that she first came accross the concept of the programme five years ago.

Photo diary

“A friend from Detroit in the United States had a similar exchange programme and my daugher was among six children who took part, fast forward 2020 and the coronavirus pandemic struck and we thought of running a similar programme to give learners useful skills,” she explains.

This year, ELS collaborated with Remote Ally Project (RAP) based in Detroit to come up with the MSTTL project in Kenya. 

“The initiative is free, the costs were borne by ELS with the hope of sourcing for more resources as the project scales up in the future,” she explained.

The project recruited 15 learners for the first cohort. Having completed the tasks in six weeks, 10 participants graduated about a week ago and are now able to creatively make insightful and beautiful storytelling photographs, use photography to communicate their feelings and constructively ease the frustrations and the stress.

They can also document their stories using photographs in a diary during this pandemic.

Gacicio says plans are underway to enlist a second batch by around September, with the graduates expected to be part of mentoring new recruits.

Although they had not intended to commercialise the project, she said that they might be forced to change that aspect owing to the high number of people interested and only sponsor the most vulnerable learners.

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