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Use coronavirus break to reshape education

Tuesday July 07 2020
By EDITORIAL

Covid-19 has struck a deadly blow to the education sector.

For the first time, learners will lose a year’s schooling and with tragic consequences.

Whereas, initially, it was thought that coronavirus infections would subside and allow resumption of academic programmes, cases continue to surge, sending fears of a precipitate situation.

Consequently, primary and secondary schools will remain closed until January.

In addition, Form Four and Standard Eight examinations that were due for October have been postponed to next year.

It’s a major loss to learners, teachers and parents.

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Indeed, this will go down as annus horribilis.

When learning institutions were closed in mid-March, the thinking was that the situation would be contained sooner rather than later.

But that was not to be. In the interim, the government, through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), rolled out virtual learning programmes through television, radio and the internet.

Many schools, especially the privately run that are well-endowed with technology infrastructure also organised customised learning programmes.

All that will serve to keep the learners busy, but not count for progression to other levels.

All is not lost, however.

From this crisis are vital learnings.

Piloting of virtual learning programmes across various levels of education has proved that this is the way to go.

Barring social and logistical challenges such as internet connectivity and costs, there is evidence that online learning is implementable and, in the fullness of time, should be institutionalised into our learning programmes.

This is particularly crucial for universities and other tertiary institutions and can be used to address the challenge of low access.

In other jurisdictions, higher education institutions have resolved to make 40 per cent of learning virtual and, in more ambitious cases, limit personalised teaching by nearly half.

There are tough learnings.

The first is to expand infrastructure and invest heavily in technology, especially in primary and secondary schools. In recent years, the campaign was to expand high school enrolment under the 100 per cent transition policy.

But that turned out to be an Achilles’ heel, creating congestion in schools as enrolment rose against inadequate facilities.

Moreover, teachers have not been trained on online teaching and are ill-prepared to use technology for pedagogy and research.

Education Cabinet Secretary George Magoha and his technocrats should first organise public campaigns to counsel learners, teachers and parents on this new harsh reality but, importantly, use this as a basis for reconfiguring education in its entirety.

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