Future of online studies in Uganda remains unclear

Sunday July 26 2020

 

By Timothy Kajja

After months of enduring the lockdown, Uganda is engineering modes of gradually reopening-up. One item that has been so close, but far from a breath of normalcy, is education.

A number of measures have been fronted to rebirth education in futility, but one. Sadly, as online studies had began to fall into shape, persecutors picked up weapons against a toddling target.

Benchmarking from South Africa, the country having re-opened schools in early June, has already confirmed hundreds of students who have contracted Covid-19 and hundreds of schools have already been re-shut to curb further spread of the novel coronavirus. This makes it easier to appreciate further physical closure of schools.

For mass testing of about 15 million students twice a month as earlier stated by Cabinet, there is nothing further from viability for a country that isn’t even close to testing a quarter of a million people in three months.

In the latest address, the President indefinitely postponed physical studies until a vaccine is secured. But we can’t confirm a date for this before questioning when mass production for the vaccine will be actualised. Cabinet is yet to abandon the idea of long-distance learning. But not everyone had to wait for a government mask to travel privately or board public transport. Why then should every student have to wait for a radio or TV from government?

In the meantime, many students are choking on rent and utility bills. Struggling to feed for days that won’t count in their academic calendars. Several students with scholarships are on the verge of forfeiting the offers for grossly falling out of the time frames.

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Not to mention those with offers for further studies scheduled for later this year. Students on education leave too are slowly being pushed to choose between the current studies and their dear jobs. Not forgetting the question of time, a priceless resource.
It’s from these considerations and more that the Law Development Centre (LDC) took the bold step to camouflage with the changing world and go online.

This was through a well studied process involving a successful three-week pilot phase, training of students and staff, consulting stakeholders, including students and the Ministry of education and Sports et cetera.
LDC remained cognisant of the challenges posed by the online studies.

For unstable network quality and power shortages, the centre adopted a model that enabled students revisit all classes in a self-paced manner. For Internet gadgets, LDC required all students to have a laptop as before registration, way before the pandemic struck. But nonetheless, the students’ guild has helped the few students with this challenges to secure Internet devices through fund drives.

For data costs, LDC secured cheaper data through Internet service providers. The students’ guild also pooled a data fund to assist with shortfalls. As a result, LDC registered a record attendance of more than 95 per cent during the online studies, way higher than the figures during the physical classes. LDC did not ask any student to fund online studies as alleged by some people. And as opposed to Uganda Christian University, LDC made no attempt whatsoever to examine students online.

Uganda is a very young country, where educating the next generation should be a main concern. Unfortunately, scientific studies are being seen as a danger, but scientific elections are seen as a goddess.

Timothy Kajja,
timothykajja@gmail.com

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