President Uhuru Kenyatta on Sunday ordered the closure of all learning institutions. Boarding schools were given until Wednesday while universities, colleges, and technical institutions have until Friday. This follows the confirmation of four COVID-19 outbreak cases in the country. According to UNESCO monitoring, 102 countries have closed schools and educational institutions nationwide. Many academic conferences and graduations have been called off impacting over 849.4 million learners.
In Kenya, there are approximately 13,751,830 learners enrolled from pre-primary to upper to secondary education and 562,521 enrolled in tertiary education. This sudden closure has paralyzed learning across the country with many institutions facing uncertainties on whether or when they will resume. As the pandemic continues to sweep the world, it may be the right time to explore the possibility of embracing remote learning to mitigate the spread of the virus that may occur through physical gatherings in schools, while contemporaneously making up for the lost academic time.
Many established technologies and startups are today shaping the education sector with their remote learning programs. Code Mashinani, a learning technology startup, wants to work with schools to develop remote instructional media infrastructure and train teaching staff on how to create instructional digital content and run live online classes. The United States International University (USIU) has also established the directorate of e-Learning to give direction for rapid technology adoption for remote learning. The university has announced to its students that they will be transitioning to online learning for all graduate and undergraduate classes. Microsoft recently launched a Remote Learning Community to tackle the coronavirus pandemic by providing a platform where educators wishing to rollout distance learning programs from around the globe are able to share their best practices, practical guides, and professional development resources.
I’m aware there are many challenges in embracing remote learning in Kenya, but it’s worth making the baby steps and soon, we’ll be used to it and its growth depends on what we do now. We must realize that the world is moving and the technological forces are ineluctable, we need to begin assembling some of the tools needed for remote learning. Some of these tools like Dropbox for sharing files and WordPress for putting together online content only require you to sign up and that’s it. There are many free learning management systems like Google Classroom and Moodle for up to 50 users.
There are two types of distance learning programs that you can take for your learners. You can either subscribe to synchronous where the teacher and the student get to interact with each other in real-time through videoconferences or telephone conversations. Alternatively, one can go for an asynchronous type of distance learning. Teachers, in this case, may deliver the instruction via video, computer, or other means, and the students are able to access them at their own time. Such content may be delivered via web or emails.
Kenya is now at the point of exploring distance learning. The Cabinet Secretary for Education, Professor Magoha has promised Kenyans that the government will facilitate distance learning through radio, television, YouTube and the Kenya Education Cloud enabled by the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development. Magoha said the lessons will start from Monday 23rd March 2020, calling on telecommunication firms and media houses to partner with the government in finding education solutions during this pandemic period.
“In partnership with the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), the ministry will broadcast radio programmes daily from Monday to Friday through Radio Taifa and English Service,” said Professor Magoha.
KBC Radio Taifa will run their lessons from 10 AM to 11 AM, KBC English Service will do the same from 9:15 AM to 12 PM and from 2 PM to 4 PM while the televisions programs and digital content from Youtube be aired via KICD-owned Edu-Channel
With just a simple internet connection and a computer with audio and video capabilities at home, we can do distance learning like any other form of education. Depending on the efforts we put to adapt technology in the education sector, there is really no difference in the quality of teaching and learning in remote programs with respect to the physical interaction between teachers and students.