Universities and other institutions of higher learning must brace for tough times ahead to deliver teaching and learning during the Covid-19 lockdown. The 23 preconditions announced by the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE), to deliver remote learning, are rigorous.
There is no doubt that this stop-gap measure is good and ensures teaching and learning continues during the shutdown. But this emergency distance learning must not put undue pressure to some students, disadvantage and leave them behind.
Despite assertions of preparedness by many public universities, including Makerere, Kyambogo, and Busitema, there remains several constraints that may undercut the programme. For instance, pre-training of both instructors and learners are yet to be done.
Also, the universities are yet to submit the structure and details of proposed e-learning models. At Kyambogo, some staff are only being drilled now on how to deliver the lessons, develop and upload content on various e-platforms, including by e-mail, Google Meet, WhatsApp, and Zoom.
Moreover, Kyambopgo says most of their students are locked upcountry and face challenges of access to electricity, Internet and data access to e-learning platforms.
Similarly, across the universities are the issues of disabilities and how to negotiate them. But none of these Institutions have come out to indicate what interventions they plan for these students to recover both time and learning lost as their peers learn.
Furthermore, there are problems of gender roles and unconducive home environments for our female students. Without a doubt, some will be demanded to undertake domestic chores instead of being left to concentrate on learning.
Some families will likely see presence of the girls at home as a holiday time and demand of them to execute domestic chores instead of learning. This will provide potential grounds for domestic dustups. So it just won’t be easy to superintend these remote learning for our female students.
Despite these odds, Makerere, with optimism, says 90 per cent of its students are accessible and Victoria University, a private institution in the heart of Kampala, puts its readiness at 76 per cent.
But what happens to the rest of the students who will be locked out of the programme for one reason or the other? The poor or no access to power, Internet network and data will be real barriers to the delivery of learning materials to learners over the Internet through desktop computers, laptops, or smart phones.
While the planned e-learning ensures teaching and learning continues during the Covid-19 lockdown, the originators need to factor in gender roles, and ensure students in rural areas, those with disabilities, and on practical courses as performing arts, medicine and engineering, are not left behind.
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