With forced COVID- 19 school shutdown, what must we do for the learners to catch up with education at home? It’s barely about two months ago after the launch of the new syllabus for lower secondary schools in Uganda. As many schools were still grappling with issues of how to implement a new curriculum amidst challenges of scarce resources and necessary skills required, again, a hard decision had to be taken for all education institutions to close down in response to Coronavirus (COVID-19) threat.
Across the whole country, schools closed as part of the effort to slow down the spread of COVID-19. The President of Uganda on Wednesday 19th March 2020, addressed the country on the COVID-19; which is ravaging the world. During his address, he ordered for the temporary closure of all schools in the country for 32 days. He noted that “Once the educational institutions population goes home, they will disperse into 8 million homesteads in Uganda that have much less concentration.” The forced shutdown of schools in Uganda was to further gauge and monitor the status of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. The implication is likely to be that if the Corona pandemic worsens in the country, the situation will further affect the education by extending the shutdown period.
With Uganda joining other countries to implement the “stay home” directive, it implies that parents have more time to bond with their children.
Children’s teaching and learning process should continue even at home. The biggest question for many parents and teachers, is about what must we do to effect learning for the children in this forced COVID-19 Schools shut down? While the developed countries like USA, have enough resources to teach online or offer blended or flipped learning, we should not believe that in a developing country like Uganda we cannot support education for our children while at home, especially the candidate classes.
It’s clear that developed countries have countless online resources to support their children while at home e.g. Khan Academy, a site with hundreds of videos and online tutorials for American students across a variety of subjects; Billnye the Science Guy and Code.org, which focuses on science and computer science respectively and offer both lessons and hands-on projects; or the BrainPOP or National Geographic Kids websites, BBC’s Bitesize to mention but a few. These and many other resources are readily accessible, largely free of charge and can often be downloaded for use offline. Some of the schools in the western world have Learning Management systems (LMS), where the teachers upload learning resources and learners can access learning materials from home; do assignments; examinations; teachers mark and post results on the LMS.
Some teachers may send lesson notes via emails to learners; use blogs; pbwikis; or use conferencing software like zoom; Skype; blue jean while others may post lesson notes on teacher or class websites. Such digital tools engage learners remotely in active learning. However, most of the digital tools available are not easily used in 3rd world countries like Uganda because of teacher skill gaps, internet connectivity problems and lack of resources to use in real time online teaching (synchronous) or non-real time online teaching (asynchronous). The good news for teachers in Uganda is that we can share notes on parent’s phones which are on Whatsapp and we can use other web 2.0 tech tools which are free online. It’s high time we developed teaching blogs where all notes of a given subject can be posted and shared with the students. Such blogs can be accessible to students using the smart phones of parents (M-learning) to reach out to learners in a virtual classroom. Pbwikis, teaching websites for teachers and teaching groups on social media like Facebook are also good.
Most learners especially those in upper levels of education institutions are already using social media, such a chance, can be exploited and with millennial learners, they will find it exciting to learn even better. As teachers in developing countries, it’s time to experiment such digital tools in teaching. We need to rediscover what tools we can use as teachers and parents. Simple to use tools like twitter, sending emails of notes and assignments, Facebook learning groups, Whatsapp, posting lesson notes on subject website (there are free website making on-line tools); which are less costly can be utilised. In my search for localized digital resources for schools, I found Kampala Smart School (www.kampalasmartschool.com) which has helpful resources for primary schools. You can make use of it during this forced school break. The beauty with it is that it can be used offline.
The phenomenon of remote teaching may pose challenges to teachers but it’s vital as teachers to come to terms with the global trends and embrace the education shift. This shift from physical classroom with walls teaching to online teaching will be a new experience but digital skills are vital in implementing the new lower secondary curriculum. Also, as parents during the current school break, we need to engage in some play with the children at home in addition to encourage them to involve in pleasure reading which has many educational, intellectual and social emotional benefits.
Moreover, parents/guardians should have some time for a creative, child-led project that helps children to explore facts. Ask your child to research on a particular topic in any subject. e.g. you may turn the kitchen into a lab and have your child explore the science behind cooking. Or, by asking your child to interview family members and investigate the details of the family story making personal history. This will keep the children engaged during this forced stay at home.
By Tumwesigye Micheal
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