Mixed Reactions As Ugandans Root for Online Schooling Amidst Covid-19

Pupils attending an ICT class before the outbreak of Covid-19 (Courtesy photo)

Education is one of those sectors that has been hit by the prevailing COVID-19 pandemic and as such, there has been a growing call for government to consider and approve online schooling.

The Uganda Christian University (UCU) recently received mixed reactions from the general public on its decision to issue examinations to her students and they were stopped by the Ministry of Education who wondered how such exams would be set and effectively supervised.

This website has interviewed some scholars to understand how effective, online schooling can be for pupils and students, given the danger that the classroom arrangement poses to learners amidst Covid-19. Most of Uganda’s schools conduct class streams of more than 50 learners. Is it possible for schools to ensure the observance of social distancing if all Uganda’s learners reported to school?

In a recent address, President Museveni revealed that Government would distribute free masks to Ugandans above the age of 6. Is it possible for pupils aged 7 – 10 years to keep masks on the entire day? Can they ensure correct use?

The Former Chairman of the Uganda National Examinations Board (UNEB), Fagil Mandy has told SoftPower News that he supports online learning but that it should not be encouraged as a replacement for the traditional classroom learning.

“School children are seated at home and are not dealing with academics, the unfortunate thing is that we don’t know when the situation will end, so it is right for people to find solutions on how to help these learners at home including the use of the radio, TV and online as a way to provide something in the face of nothing, Mandy said.

The renowned educationalist, however, emphasized that it should not replace the classroom.

“I appreciate the innovation as a fill-up of an emergency nature which should not replace the normal face to face learning; much as we can advocate for online learning, we must know that currently it’s impossible to reach every learner, Mandy said.

Mandy argued that first of all the people in the rural areas will be very disadvantaged and learning for all cannot be achieved.

“You remember in the school days, the best way of learning were through participation as well as interaction, experimenting and doing. Online learning doesn’t involving doing, yes Whatsapp can allow interactions but the learning will be superficial and the learning doesnt reach the human soul,” Mandy said.

However, the Vice Chancellor, Victoria University, Dr. Krishna N. Sharma told SoftPower News that Online learning is the way to go, adding that the University is ready with all the tools of online education.

Dr. Krishna said that Education is the key of growth and since COVID-19 is not going away anytime soon, students can’t afford to loose precious time.

“We have been talking about 4th industrial revolution, it is time to implement it and we should begin with the many open access platforms available. Progress is progress, there will always be students who will miss out, even in traditional style of education, still there are students who drop out in S.6 and fail to go to University for lack of resources. I think, even if online teaching can help 10% students, it should be rolled out, Dr. Krishna said.

Dr. Krishna noted that online learning has been so effective according to a research titled ‘The Effectiveness of WhatsApp Mobile Learning Activities Guided by Activity Theory on Students’ Knowledge Management by Chokri Barhoumi at Taibah University, Saudi Arabia.’

“In fact in whatsapp groups, students are more participatory, they ask more questions, they share their responses, they share content related to topics and of course even the lecturers are able to respond to their questions any time, Dr. Krishna said.

He added that online learning offers students increased choices and opportunities in the context of online instruction.

“Online courses that incorporate mobile technologies are becoming a more frequent component in universities, and the number of web-based mobile courses has increased, Dr. Krishna noted.

Some of the parents contacted expressed challenges with getting young children to concentrate on academic learning the entire day in class.

“Several of us (adults) have attended online classes and they enable one to work and do other things as opposed to getting enrolled by an institution full time. One of my children’s school conducts early morning zoom classes. I thank the teachers for keeping the children engaged during the Covid-19 lockdown. The class is quite interactive. I must, however, sit in until the class ends. Little ones need guidance and supervision to concentrate at home. They easily get distracted as their mood under the lockdown is that they are on school holiday, a break from class,” said Sarah Kagingo.

She added, “the other school has been sending lots of work which the boy has to sit and do and I send it back to the teachers for marking. Sometimes they send me the marking guide. Imagine that for more than 10 subjects every week! I have turned into a teacher, and I appreciate more the role of teachers. It wouldn’t be wise to wait until the covid-19 outbreak ends. Online classes provide the opportunity for children in urban centres, with good internet connectivity, to continue learning at home, in safety from covid-19 . It is a sure way to observe social distancing,” she added.

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