Most students despair of online and distance learning mechanisms.
In fact, a large percent of the students in this country go to school barefoot and on an empty stomach due to the economic incapacity of their parents.
During the first wave of Covid-19, an additional budget was voted by Parliament to, among other needs, cover open distance learning (ODEL) as proposed by the Ministry of Education and Sports.
According to the plan, learners were to receive instruction via radios and home schooling by providing reading material by the Ministry of Education.
To date, the radios have not been delivered to learners. For the sub-counties (and not all) that received reading materials, each household had to bear their own costs of photocopying reading materials for their children.
There was a learning gap caused by this mechanism because disadvantaged students could not afford a smartphone or laptop and they did not know how to use computers let alone read effectively.
Undoubtedly, this applies to the majority of secondary students in Uganda where an entire USE school has a computer which is usually owned by the bursar. Learners therefore borrow this computer to prepare students for national exams.
With challenges such as access to electricity in rural homes, computer illiteracy and practical subjects like chemistry, biology, physics that require a physical presence in the classroom and many others, we are destined to record terrible performance.
Physical education aimed at improving psychomotor learning capacity seems to have been abandoned by ODEL. Busy parents, overwhelmed by the late-season harvest and livestock grazing and stress to survive in a pandemic lockdown, have no choice but to engage their children in household and farm chores at the expense of their families. studies.
Online learning also limits feedback from learners to teachers. Teachers need only assume that learners understand what they are teaching.
Worse still is the learner assessment module because teaching is administered in a phased manner online but the assessment is specifically carried out physically by schools. Something that raised questions about the authenticity and validity of the results and the whole process.
This is proof that the ODEL system has indeed not achieved its objectives.
Furthermore, and it is still interesting to note that a large part of rural learners were also frustrated with the learning process and even dropped out of school.
This is seen in the increasing cases of underage marriages and pregnancies, an increase in domestic violence cases and an equal increase in youth crime rates in rural and some urban areas.
ODEL is a travesty of educational integrity given the challenges ranging from mismanagement of the institution to failure of the implementation of the learning policy plan by the government.
Online learning benefits only a tiny percentage in urban centers who can comfortably afford all of these basic amenities for learning online.
Needless to say, the post-Covid-19 and new wave are involving the education sector. The government should learn from the past and other states that Covid-19 has demonstrated longevity and therefore short-term solutions are not really the best strategy.
The government should reconsider the sector as an essential part of life. In this regard, protect both teachers and learners.
Isolate them in their respective schools. Vaccinate them massively after lobbying for vaccines with international organizations. Parents, learners and teachers must strictly adhere to the SOPs and the lockdown must be lifted.
The government should also offer tuition waivers to all students and pay teachers’ salaries for a period of one year.
Students cannot afford to quit their studies every time a wave hits the country, because as far as my knowledge serves me, the waves of Covid 19 multiply by multiplication of variants. Durable solutions are needed.
John Solomon Nabuyanda is the 32nd Secretary General of UNSA.