Schools resort to Zoom classes as online teaching takes shape

Friday May 22 2020

New ways. A pupil follows lessons on radio in

New ways. A pupil follows lessons on radio in Karango Sub-county in Kabarole District last month. Teachers and parents complain that despite the televised lessons some schools still face challenges. PHOTO BY ALEX ASHABA  

By DAMAli MUKHAYE & NORBERT ATUKUNDA

As government discusses plans to reopen educational institutions, some schools across the country have devised innovative ways, including using online app Zoom, to keep learners active during the lockdown.
Since the closure of schools on March 20, government as well as schools, especially those in urban areas, have implemented alternative teaching tools to keep learners abreast with programme of study.

Some private schools have adopted online schooling while others are in the process of introducing similar ideas as they wait for the reopening. With the exception of candidate and final year students, it is not clear when the government intends to reopen for the rest of the learners.
While some of the parents are using WhatsApp groups and phone calls, some schools such as Greenhill Academy and Kampala Parents have adopted new online technologies such as Zoom to reach out to the students.
More than 15.5 million learners are currently staying home as part of the government measures to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

Ms Daphine Kato, the principal of Kampala Parents, told Daily Monitor that after government announced plans to allow candidates to resume their studies on June 2, the school authorities had to move quickly and innovate other means of delivering lessons to cater for all the learners.
“We have already sought permission from the RDC to allow our teachers to conduct these lessons online from school. They will use Zoom to conduct lessons and all parents are going to be informed about this new invitation,” Ms Kato said.
She said the online classes dubbed as “Back to School Online” start on Friday, May 29.

“We are asking our parents to register as we start online classes for all classes. The virtual classes will be followed by physical classes for candidates once permission is granted. We don’t want our learners to miss anything during the lockdown period,” she added.
Ms Kato said the school administration is ready to reopen for candidate classes and promised to implement the special safety measures that will be put in place by the Ministry of Education.
Ms Irene Mutunzo, the Branding and Public Relations Officer at Greenhill Academy, said they planned the alternatives before the lockdown, so it was easy for them to deliver material and lessons to their learners.

Mr Denis Nimusiima, a Mathematics teacher at Mbarara Junior School, told Daily Monitor that the learning materials are sent to parents via different online platforms depending on what channel is best for the parent. Some prefer WhatsApp and others email. “Parents have the teachers’ contact list to enable parents present their inquiries....,” Mr Nimusiima said.
Mr Nimusiima said to be able to have interactive lessons with the pupils, the children use calls and other platforms to answer pupils’ inquiries.
“When they send back the work they have done, we also analyse it and give feedback and incase of difficulty, they call us and we help out,” Mr Nimusiima added.
However, Mr Nimusiima said classes that require practical lessons are very difficult for them.

The Head Teacher of Seeta High School, Seeta Campus, Mr Allan Obbo Warayamo, said his teachers are using WhatsApp and Google classes to deliver lessons to their learners.
He said teachers send notes and exercise or tests to their learners using the WhatsApp numbers of their parents.
“Teachers had to create WhatsApp groups for various classes. Learners who do not have personal phones have to use for their parents to access work. Group work, teaching and even marking is done on WhatsApp and this has partly helped to keep our learners active while at home,” Mr Obbo said.

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“We are also using Google class where teachers interface directly with learners. This is the most appropriate and reliable since it avoids unnecessary information and discussion like on WhatsApp. Teachers usually create a class on Google and invite all learners to study online. This requires a computer or a laptop,” he said.
“We created an App dubbed Greenmobi to ease communication. With this, we are able to communicate with parents. The App is also used for uploading work and parents also send in their questions. We also created a website portal for the learners and other technology such as Zoom to engage the learners,” Ms Mutunzo said.

Challenges
The Secretary General of Uganda National Teacher’s Association, Mr Filbert Baguma, said many students in universal schools are just home waiting for schools to re-open yet their colleagues are studying online.
He said the materials that were supposed to be distributed by government were few, adding that with the closure of stationery shops, parents could not photocopy materials. “Radio programmes are not on in rural areas. So most UPE and USE schools are in the lockdown because even those few who can access TV have fluctuation of electricity,” Mr Baguma said.
Mr Fagil Monday, an educationist, said schools that are currently using the online platform can go ahead but warned that it is not a standard solution to the disruption because not all children across the country can access those materials.
He asked parents to equip students with skills such as baking.

editorial@ug.nationmedia.com

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