Stakeholders raise concerns about efficacy of e-learning

Friday, April 24th, 2020 00:00 |
From L-R: Mercy Omobe (Asumbi Girls), Esther Kasondi (St Kitie), Aaron Irene (Amb Pamela Mboya Girls) and Sheryl Atieno (Mary Hill High) all in Form Four, study at home at Imara Daima Estate. They have urged Education CS George Magoha to allow candidates to sit their final examinations. Photo/PD/DAVID NDOLO

Irene Githinji,  Evelyn Makena and Roy Lumbe

Despite government assurances that digital learning is well on course, concerns are being raised not only over its efficiency but also coverage across the country.

Opinion is divided on whether children are benefitting from virtual learning, given the different geographical conditions for some households.

 Given the low levels of access to internet and high levels of illiteracy in mostly rural areas, there are concerns that children from poor backgrounds might not benefit from e-learning.

Kenya National Union of Teachers (KNUT) secretary general Wilson Sossion said it was difficult for digital learning to work and most households can hardly cope with its dynamics of the moment.

Several weeks into e-learning and Sossion said not more than 10 percent have been reached and questioned how the remaining population will be accommodated.

“Look at the lap top project in this country, it failed and means we cannot even talk of moving close to e-learning.

Whatever has been aired through various media channels is not effective at all. We must sustain equity in this process,” Sossion said.

He said that as the country sought to embrace e-learning, the only way to make it work is to prioritise it as a project of the future by government providing adequate infrastructure.

Sossion termed the current situation as “mere wishful thinking”.

“The best we can do is to continue supporting Government with the effort they have put in place and it should not fear biting the bullet and even institute tougher measure to fight coronavirus disease so that we can take a shorter time to flatten the curve,” he added.

 On his part, Knut Bomet executive secretary Molel Lang’at said the belief that learning is going on in different digital platforms was far-fetched as many learners in rural Kenya could not afford the luxury of virtual schooling.

“Many homes are yet to be connected to the national electricity network and even if they were; many may not afford to pay the bills amid coronavirus disease restrictions,” said Lang’at.

“That digital learning is working does not necessarily reflect the actual situation in most parts of the country.

This is not happening at all in some of the places… In rural areas the online learning is unimaginable,” said a teacher, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The teacher said the Ministry of Education should work out a strategy to cater for all families in the wake of harsh economic times occasioned by the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of parents say they were facing challenges in accessing digital learning resources provided by government while schools are closed due to coronavirus disease.

The few with smartphones say they do not have resources to purchase internet bundles to ensure children can access online resources.

Lucy Mwithia, a parent in Mbeere South, Embu County said yesterday she had not managed to access online content.

The mother of three children in Classes 8, 6 and Grade 2 said she is especially worried about what will happen to the candidate.

“I used to sell fruits and clothes in Nairobi. But now with the current circumstances, I have been forced to close the business and stay home,” she says.

Lucy has resorted to borrowing past examination papers from schools to help them with revision.

“The few attempts I have made to tune into KBC radio to help my children listen to online lessons have failed because my radio is not picking the frequency,” she adds.

On Sunday, Education CS Prof George Magoha said the Government was seeking to address e-learning challenges for children who could not easily access digital learning.

He said parents with smartphones should allow their children access information from the various education channels, to keep them learning.

The Kenya Primary School Heads Association (KEPSHA) Nicholas Gathemia,however, said though some children were disadvantaged, digital learning was well on course in some places.

“KICD may not be able to give the entire content in digital learning at the moment but at it has ensured that the most essential ones have been disseminated,” said Gathemia.

Indeed, at Eagle Apex Hill School in Subukia, Nakuru County it is learning as usual as the institution has turned to the Internet for pupils to attend classes.

After completing the assignment, the learner sends in the work in picture form for the teachers to mark before the results can be sent to the parent for monitoring and supervision. 

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