Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Continuing education through alternative learning pathways has been prioritized since the closure of schools nearly two months ago as a measure to control the spread of coronavirus disease.
But the adoption of the new remote learning systems has been a challenge in an environment where teachers, parents and caregivers were not positioned to provide education, through radio programmes, home-schooling, online learning and other approaches as outlined by the Ministry of Education and Sports.
Najib Saiga, a teacher at Bishop Senior Secondary School in Mukono district recalls a phone call informing him that the Ministry of Education had recommended him to teach English and literature lessons through Uganda Broadcasting Corporation Radio. With his teaching experience of over 20 years, Saiga notes that the new assignment was an uphill task.
“Although I had not figured out how to do it, I was ready to face it. However, everything was strange. No classroom, no learners. The entire environment was strange,” Saiga shares, before adding that the art of teaching on radio and TV is tricky and requires innovative skills, totally different from the usual classroom engagement.
Pius Kitondekijja, a mathematics teacher at the Masajja-based Top-Quality Primary School who was contracted by Delta Television shares a similar experience. He says imagining a class and teaching in front cameramen, producers and a director has been challenging.
For the national broadcaster-UBC officials at the education ministry highlighted the challenge and advised that each teacher should have one or two learners in the studio in order to have a classroom feeling. However, Saiga notes that even that was not a clear representation.
He points out that if there is a bright learner in the studios, then the teacher moves at the learners’ pace at the expense of others who could have tuned in from the comfort of their homes. To change this, he brought in several learners from different schools and areas.
Both teachers independently highlight that the biggest problem has been the limited time given for each lesson and add that delivering a radio and television program in a short time for a person without training to deliver in such an environment can be a nightmare.
Sometimes the lessons are aired for 30 to 40 minutes which according to him is not enough for such a setting and in some circumstances, they are interrupted by commercials. They note that that the limited times lead to an increase in the speed of delivery and at times leads to mistakes.
Other countries which have employed TV and radio lessons for the education response plan during COVID-19 have ensured that lessons are given time. For example, in Argentina, the Ministry of Education and the Secretariat of Media and Public Communication, have set 14 hours a day of television content and 7 hours a day of radio content for students.
They have also observed that absence of interactions and feedback is another challenge given the fact that they are used to getting instant feedback from their learners which informs them on whether the learners are grasping anything or not.
In the meantime, teachers are offering their mobile phones as a channel through which feedback can be recorded. However, at times he is overwhelmed with the calls and messages. During the interview, he received over 10 calls until when he switched it off to concentrate.
Despite the experience, the duo is optimistic that the teaching and learning process via television and radio can be a good alternative in cases where classroom teaching cannot take place.
Dr Jane Egau Okou, the Commissioner for Teacher Education and Instruction at the education ministry says the current teacher training curricula do not have aspects of virtual teaching approaches which are presenting challenges to nearly all teachers that are currently teaching using the said platforms.
She, however notes that the circumstances have already dictated and a turning point has been made which makes virtual teaching a compulsory skill for the future.