Sheila Maina, a resident of Runda, Nairobi has been working from home for the past three years. The introduction of the curfew in Kenya and restricted movement in and out of some counties has however slowed down her work. Despite the slowdown, she is not idle because she has to teach her 10-year-old daughter who has not been going to school since March 16, 2020.
All learning institutions in Kenya were closed down due to a presidential directive to control the spread of the coronavirus. More than a month later, teachers, parents and students have resorted to alternative ways of learning. Some of the tools used are printed assignments that are picked up from schools, online sites, television and radio programmes. So far, some parents are happy with the new means of learning while others are facing many challenges.
Maina’s work is online based and so she is one of the parents who are satisfied with the new method. “I usually work from home so having my daughter at home during this period gives me peace of mind. I can monitor what she is doing the whole day and help her with her studies. It’s like home schooling,” she said.
Maina however admits that it required a lot of discipline from both the parent and the student. It also requires some equipment like a computer, a printer, printing paper, cartridge and access to the internet. Fortunately for her Maina already owns them because of the nature of her work.
Challenges of online education
Felista Muendo has a different opinion. According to her, online education is too ambitious and too expensive. Muendo lives in Kayole, Nairobi and sells fruits, which earned her approximately ksh 10,000 a month. However, this has reduced tremendously since the emergence of the coronavirus pandemic. As a result, she cannot afford the many assignments that she has to print in cyber cafes for her son.
“The cybers charge Ksh10 per page for black and white and Ksh20 for colored printing. Sometimes I have to print up to twenty pages,” said Muendo.
Muendo adds that she also has to buy internet bundles in order to receive the assignments on her Whatsapp. At times, this costs her up to Ksh 300 per week. These expenses, she says, she can no longer handle because she is struggling to feed her family of six.
KICD satisfied with the response
Jacqueline Onyango, Senior Deputy Director, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) brushed off critics saying that the response has been very good. While speaking on Citizen TV, she said that the institute is satisfied with the access that children have been having, listening to the radio and television programmes.
“The programmes resonate well with what they have been taught in school. The television programmes have given them the opportunity to watch a teacher take them through a lesson. It is virtual and so it is easy to assimilate to,“ she said . She also added that the students are able to listen to radio programmes that are broadcast through Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC).
Ms Onyango also dismissed claims that the programmes are not interactive enough. “The students might not have a teacher physically supervising and engaging them like in a real classroom, but the fact that they can listen to someone else, is equally effective,” she said.
Statistics on accessibility
Some education experts have however questioned the viability of online education. According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) census report, the number of mobile users stands at 20 million (out of 51.39 million Kenyan population). At the same time, just one in five Kenyans has access to the internet.
The statistics further reveal that 29.2 % of the rural population has access to television, 4.2% has access to computers .Also, 21. 1% of the urban population has access to computers. These statistics shows that there are many students who cannot access the online and broadcast education.
Ms Onyango of KICD however admits that they might not reach everyone, but all Kenyans need to work towards improving the situation. “If I can’t use a smartphone, I can use a radio. We must ensure that our children keep the global trend. Literacy is required by everyone,” she said.
Ms Onyango further explained that KICD offers an option of recording the programmes on CDs and vie education cloud.
Parents whose children attend public schools are complaining that their children are not getting enough attention compared to their private school counterparts. Their main concern is that in the end they will all sit for the same national examination.
“My daughter has never received any assignment from her teachers. I have to ask my friends for their children’s assignments,” said Japheth Owino. Owino’s daughter attends a public primary school in Kisumu town.
This dilema also comes at a time when the government is facing challenges in delivering free tablets to pupils in public schools. The latest statistics show that 700,000 Standard One pupils, out of 1.2 million targeted, have received tablets under the Digital Literacy Programme.
The government targets to issue 980,848 tablets to 21,729 schools countrywide. So far, 18,069 primary schools have received the gadgets. These tablets would have been very useful at times like this but the programe is already facing many challenges. The human resource needed is limited and so the tablets do not have enough reading material. Also, many public schools in Kenya lack basic things like classrooms, water and electricity.
Some of the online tools:
Several students can log in and conduct discussions. Teachers also conduct classes.
- Google Classroom
A teacher posts assignments, once students have completed they post their answers and a teacher marks them.
Teachers give lessons, they explain them and students can ask questions. At the end of the lessons there are tests to gauge the students’ understanding. Schools have a deal with Zeraki and parents are given a code to access it.
Teachers send assignments to parents’ WhatsApp account. The parents then print them and share with their children. It is free of charge, all you need is internet bundles. Only admins can post.
A school gives a link and when you log in you are connected to a teacher.
A student driven portfolio that allows students to publish and carry with their work while still communicating with the teachers , parents and even outside audience.
Here you access revision notes, and ask questions for free. Dial *291# to register.
This is for children between three and twelve years. You can sign up for free as a teacher or as a student.
This site offers revision papers for form one to form four.
10. Maths playground
This site is specifically for mathematics. It has games and lessons from kindergarten to grade 8.
Every pupil is assigned a username and a password. Pupils from the same school can interact with their teacher. Also, students of the same grade can interact countrywide.
Airtel and Safaricom have been offering 100 MBs of free internet for people who want to access learning materials by Longhorn Publishers. The bundles are valid for 24 hours.
Although it would be free to use the platform over the two networks, it seems like you still need to subscribe to access the content on Longhorn’s e-learning platform. There is also a section where schools can pay for each of their students to access the content available.
What journalists should do:
- Investigate whether the coronavirus pandemic gives a boost to e-learning in Kenya.
- Find out how effective the online schooling is. Talk to parents, teachers and students to get their views.
- Find out how affordable it is to access online tools.
- Talk to students, teachers and parents of public schools to find out if the government is offering them enough support during this pandemic period.
By Carolyne Oyugi