INSTITUTIONS UNPREPARED

COVID-19: Why most schools are not ready for online classes

Lack of infrastructure and uneven internet connectivity will hamper virtual learning, experts say

In Summary

'It is something we are not prepared for, and it should be discouraged as an alternative to on-campus classes. Another critical issue is students who need to conduct practicals, how do they go about it online'

• Unequal internet access to students, is poked for discrimination should institutions go down the virtual learning road.

Nicholus Kyete, a Grade 1 pupil at Muthue Primary School in Kitui South holds a tablet provided to the school
NO INFRASTRUCTURE: Nicholus Kyete, a Grade 1 pupil at Muthue Primary School in Kitui South holds a tablet provided to the school
Image: MUSEMBI NZENGU

 

The coronavirus outbreak that caused the abrupt closure of schools has pushed educators back to the drawing board as they try virtual learning to continue with learning.

On Monday, a handful of institutions said they were switching to online learning as an option for continued teaching.

Mount Kenya University, Daystar University, Brookhouse International School and the University of Nairobi said they were going online.

For some schools, it's a small leap. Their students have internet connection at home, laptops and tablets and their teachers know how to design online lessons.

Brookhouse, for example, piloted its online tool for learners to interact through video conferencing for class sessions.

The virtual learning is scheduled for each session to ensure minimal interruption of what would otherwise be a class.

In one of the tweets by the institution, the learners are captured conducting a 5BX in a video of what would have been an outdoor P.E class.

But such schools are rare and not affordable to the vast majority.

Most schools and even universities are still unprepared for virtual learning.  

George Omondi, a professor of human resources at the University of Nairobi, discredited the fuzz to adopt virtual learning, saying there was not enough infrastructure to support the idea.

He said successful remote learning experiences depend on teachers who know how to create and deliver engaging lessons online and students who have the digital literacy skills to access them.

Omondi also notes that the unequal internet access in parts of the country will lead to discrimination should institutions go the online way.

“It is something we are not prepared for, and it should be discouraged as an alternative to on-campus classes. Another critical issue is students who need to conduct practicals, how do they go about it online,” Omondi told the Star on Tuesday.

Radio broadcast  

Through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development, the government on Monday announced it will be offering lessons through radio broadcast.

The twenty minutes lessons are meant for learners in Standard 5-8 with the exception of two lessons for learners in Grade 3. The lessons will be aired on the national radio broadcaster KBC.

For secondary schools, learners in Forms 3 and 4 will benefit from lessons in English, Geography, Business Studies, Fasihi and Agriculture.

Other subjects to be covered include Maths, Kiswahili, Social Studies, Life Skills and Religious Education.

But critics have discredited the radio lessons as being too shallow and far behind in syllabus coverage.

Psychiatrist and former director of Mathari Mental Hospital, Njagi Kumantha says younger children don’t have the independent learning skills, attention spans or social-emotional maturity to succeed in virtual learning environments for very long.

A host of organisations have offered to provide online learning tools that learners, and schools could explore as substitutes for teaching and learning.

Venture capital giant, Centum PLC on Tuesday said it would support continued learning of pupils during the Covid-19 crisis.

"Longhorn publishers, a subsidiary of Centum PLC, has availed their online learning platform to learners from Grade 1 to Form 4 for free," CEO James Mworia said in a tweet.

 

edited by peter obuya