With education services coming to a halt due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some learning institutions have remained committed and are ensuring that students have access to education. This, however, has not come easy, but how are education leaders tackling the unexpected challenge of providing distance learning as the primary mode of instruction? Pierre-Damien Nkurunziza, the principal of Kigali City School, located in Gasabo District, reflects on how distance learning is helping his school cope with the outbreak of the coronavirus. Over the course of five working days, they went from full operations to a reduction of services for after school activities and inter-school events, to a complete closure. This called for a new design that was to be built from scratch in order to create an online learning strategy, he says. Nkurunziza adds that they have been fortunate to follow in the footsteps of other higher learning institutions, local and international, and have learnt a lot from the experiences of other schools in regards to keeping their teaching environment active. “For teachers to be able to give their best, school leaders should be open, visible and transparent with their teachers. They too are facing their own personal challenges,” he says. Additionally, as a school principal, he points out that there is need for teachers to collaborate with colleagues and learn from each other’s experiences. “As teachers, make sure that you collaborate and talk to other colleagues in other schools. It’s okay not to have all of the answers, but when educators talk to each other, we can support and lift each other’s spirits. Throw away the competitive mantle and reach out to each other. There is a privilege in collaboration now more than ever,” Nkurunziza highlights. It is evident that many educators across the globe are working under unprecedented conditions. In Rwanda, many educators are now working from home after schools closed on March 15. The development was announced in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic following the country’s first confirmed case on March 14. What educationists say In light of this, there have been emerging concerns about the role of teachers during the lock down era. Other concerns include; what is a teacher’s main role? What happens to vulnerable students? What are the main challenges teachers are facing? Education experts, officials, teachers, students and parents share their views. Jean-Nepo Nizeyimana, a student-teacher at Excella Primary School, notes that the biggest concerns for some teachers about having to work from home include losing contact with vulnerable pupils. “These high-risk pupils are in homes with adults who do not engage with social care at the best of times. Teachers who have been trained to take great care of these children now cannot.” On the other hand, Cherish Nkurunziza, a teacher, points out that having entered week five since the schools’ closure, there have been many lessons learned. “The constantly changing state requires a lot of flexibility from both staff and students as the educational world has never undertaken an online shift in a trend of this magnitude,” she adds. “Finding something that allows teachers to set work, students to upload, teachers to get feedback and students to respond, all while having a user-friendly interface will take more time. And patience.” For Rosette Mutesi, a parent, different key players should step-up efforts in order to facilitate the work of teachers. Giving an example of the recently launched e-learning platform by Rwanda Education Board (REB), she challenges other online websites, libraries and other essential services for learning to track their work with digital platforms. “It’s not just the teachers, all of us should feel the need to support this important sector. In that case, we will see a huge improvement in students’ engagement.” REB on March 30 launched an e-learning YouTube channel to facilitate students to continue their studies at home as the uncertainty on when schools will be reopened still looms. The channel has different videos of courses from primary to secondary. According to Irénée Ndayambaje, Director General of REB, the platform will also facilitate peer learning among teachers. Ndayambaje says that teachers should take this time to prepare and engage with their students. “We ask the teachers not to relax with their work, but instead, take this time to actively engage with their students,” Ndayambaje says.