With the previously phased re-opening of schools, many teachers had come to believe and hope that the situation was going to get better. It’s this hope that kept many taking shifts in teaching the few classes which had been cleared to study.
The same hope kept the ones on the waiting bench doing a few casual jobs as they anticipated the full re-opening of schools. Unfortunately, all these hopes diminish on 6th June, when President Museveni announced the closure of all educational institutions for 42 days.
With the new strain claiming even the young, the fear of leaving the schools open grew true for many. According to the Ministry of Health data, in the month of May, the positivity rate in tested samples was at 18%.
Now that the schools have been re-closed, we are back to singing the song of E-learning. Schools across the globe have for long gone through the back and forth of reopening and closure in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic. Parents are desperate for any assistance in line with their children’s education.
With no certainty on when COVID-19 will cease, again, teachers are suddenly faced with the challenge of how to continue their students’ education. The government of Uganda has advocated for e-learning as a temporary substitute for classroom teaching.
Unfortunately, transforming teaching materials from hard to soft copy format at short notice has been a challenge because few teachers have essential digital and ICT skills. In addition, our education system especially for the primary and secondary sections has primarily been centered on a teacher.
This has further complicated the situation for the few teachers who have endeavored to teach their students since the later claim not to understand what is being taught online. Teachers are currently playing catch-up with many of them finding a hard time maneuvering the different platforms and online sites.
The ones who are still pushing have found themselves managing virtual classrooms, communicating with their students over social media platforms, and learning by doing as they provide education from a distance to students affected by school closures due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Although this has proven to be the new normal, the shift from physical classes to virtual ones has never been swift for so many teachers in Uganda.
Besides the limited access, those who have smartphones are still faced with a challenge on how best to use the internet to teach their students. The high cost of data, coupled with a daily tax on the use of social media goes without mention.
There was a time when there was doubt about the reality of this disease which has overhauled our day-to-day living.
Sometimes, the reality is not fair, but we need to come up with realistic ways of facing it. Some of these involve all the education stakeholders coming together to see to it that our education system stands strong amid this huge test.
With the move to open schools still tentative, the teachers need to acquire e-teaching training on how best to deliver classes to their students using the new technology.
Through this training, teachers will be able to acquire skills and knowledge in conducting virtual classes to enable them to deliver material more satisfactorily for both themselves and their students. We are stronger together, so let’s help support our teachers by easing the distance learning process for the sake of a resilient education system.
This writer, Stella Namatovu is the Publicity officer, River Flow International – Science Teachers’ Initiative