Give e-learning a chance to rescue young learners

Lavington Primary School students embrace e-learning. PHOTO | FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP

What you need to know:

  • Effective roll-out of e-learning requires meticulous planning on the part of teachers, who have to reconfigure lessons to be delivered online.
  • There will be added urgency for the government to stop political games and do the right thing to give each child a fair chance to get education.

The desire to learn is clearly manifest but the capacity to teach is not assured and this has become the big dilemma for our education chiefs as the Covid-19 upheaval continues to reverberate across the country.

Schools remain closed six weeks on and will wait until the first week of June for the Ministry of Education to give further directives depending on how the pandemic unfolds.

Cabinet Secretary George Magoha is clear that he will be in no hurry to reopen schools if he feels that there is still danger to the children. Even if it takes a year, the children will be safer at home.

This is a frightening but understandable position that may well mean that children will miss a significant portion of their learning year.

Those whose calendar runs January to November will have missed the better part of two terms, while those whose school year starts September to June will have missed the whole of third term.

One fact is clear, though. Those responsible for learning have, like in other sectors, been forced to review the issue of continuity in the face of unexpected circumstances, and e-learning has come into play.

CAREFUL PLANNING

Learning institutions from lower primary to university are all grappling with the challenge of how to effectively deploy technology tools to teach, monitor progress and even conduct examinations.

The picture of performance so far across the country is not uniformly pretty, but the fact that so many schools and other learning institutions are attempting e-learning is highly commendable.

Effective roll-out of e-learning requires meticulous planning on the part of teachers, who have to reconfigure lessons to be delivered online.

Notes have to be prepared early and shared in formats that students can easily access and digest. Lessons that require students to conduct practical exercises in laboratories and workshops present unique challenges.

We suffer added challenges in Kenya. The internet spread is patchy over many parts of the country, especially in rural areas where vast numbers of our schoolchildren are.

It is expensive for the vast majority of parents, whether one is using bundles or is connected. The devices to be deployed (mobile phones, laptops, desktops, and so on) also cost money that most parents cannot afford.

AVOID BICKERING

This being the case, there will always be the necessary debate on how we can achieve equity in offering education to the majority of Kenya’s children.

There will be added urgency for the government to stop political games and do the right thing to give each child a fair chance to get education.

But it surprises me that even where there should be no issue, some parents are still finding reasons to be unreasonable.

It seems to me that those parents of Brookhouse School that are fighting to get discounts on third term fees are mixing up the issue of fees rebate and the right for children in lower primary to be taught using e-learning.

Children in similar classes in other schools are being taught quite effectively because, luckily for them, their teachers are well prepared and their parents can afford the cost for them to get effective tuition.

They are in this happy place where the challenges confronting tens of thousands of other children are non-issues.

It is traumatic enough that learning has been so severely disrupted in all schools. For unnecessary pain to be added to this by some parents that feel that their children should not be on the e-learning platform is extreme. Children willing and able to e-learn should be encouraged.

The writer is a former Chief Editor of the Nation Media Group and is now Managing Partner for Blue Crane Global. [email protected]; @tmshindi

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