KAMPALA – During Covid-19 pandemic, managing learning continuity has been difficult. When all students return to school next year, many return with a large learning deficit with some lagging behind than others. The digital divide has made it virtually impossible for some students to learn during pandemic. This is more pronounced to students from poorer, uneducated parents and remote relative to children with more educated parents across all levels of education.
Even some of these children have missed their childhood education in their critical preschool years. Children need to acquire foundational skills in early grades, thus, they may find it much more difficult to learn later. According to (UNICEF) 1 out 3 children missed out on remote learning when Covid shuttered schools.
These learning gaps were further widened by “Covid slide” the slip in academic performance due to the time spent out of physical classrooms due to the pandemic. Closures are placing unprecedented challenges on governments to ensure learning continuity, and on teachers, students, caregivers and parents.
The Uganda National Household Survey 2016/17, found great variations in television ownership across regions: 42% of households in Kampala were reported to own a television; 3% of households owned a television in Kigezi; 2% of households owned a television in Teso, Bukedi and Acholi, and 1% in West Nile. It also is estimated that only 6.7 million students were reached by distance learning during the lockdown, while 1.6 million students were excluded. It also is estimated that only 6.7 million students were reached by distance learning during the lockdown, while 1.6 million students were excluded.
Thus, the teachers will face two challenges: (i) helping children who are behind their curriculum, and (ii) teaching classrooms with remarkably diverse levels of learning and emotional needs.
We need to put in place working strategies that ensure all students are able to catch up when they return to school in order to minimize the impact of lost learning time and close learning gaps.
In Argentina, students without access technology or connectivity, television and radio programming is supplemented with notebooks packed with learning resources that have been delivered to homes of these students. 9 notebooks have been developed for this purpose – 2 notebooks are for pre-primary levels, 4 for primary levels, 2 for secondary level and 1 for the family.
The Ministry of Education of Argentina has portal aimed at providing curated digital resources for teachers, administrators, students and families.
The program also makes available a collection of on-demand digital educational materials and resources on the country`s education website under the ‘Seguimos Educando’ section. Seguimos Educando which aptly translates to “continuing to educate”.
The platform also includes self-learning resources, suggestions for families and teachers, interviews, educational and communication proposals through social networks and videoconferencing tools, agendas for online events as well as proposals for free time for students.
This technique can be adopted in Uganda. Printed booklets should be delivered to students without internet access, as we are waiting for radios. Also, assigning teachers to conduct remote daily or weekly follow up with students to engage in instruction, offer feedback to students and gauge their understanding. These teachers will provide literacy, numeracy, and basic life skills to such underprivileged children and from remote areas. This will ensure progression and syllabus completion.
Additionally, create parents networks that can support students with home schooling. Regular monitoring and feedback channels with teacher and parent communities should be established to help enhance the process of adaptation to distant learning and the gradual return to face-to-face formats. The Education departments and other related agencies should create taskforce to provide community mobile hotspots where those without internet access can convene. This should be accompanied by educating families about opportunities of free WIFI and technologies and incentivizing internet providers to help families in need. This will influence education outcomes and economic development.
Adequate financing by the government (short to medium term) –maintain adequate education funding to support targeted interventions, especially for students at risk of early school leaving.
Echoing the SDG 4 that aims to ‘ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all ,’it is important to ensure that no child is left behind during this period. It is imperative that strategies to support continued learning for all take into consideration the needs of the poorest and most marginalized students. This will ensure that all students benefit and are able to continue with their learning.
The author, Tusiime Roline is a Resident Research Associate – Great Lakes Institute for Strategic Studies (GLiSS)