The Nation Leadership Forum, a forum organized by the Nation Media Group on Thursday May 21, 2020 held a discussion on the ‘Impact of Covid-19 on Education’. the session sought to deliberate the state of Education in the country, how Covid-19 has disrupted education and the measures the Government has put in place to deal with the disruptions.
The NLF session was moderated by NTV News Anchor, Olive Burrows and the panel consisted of Prof. Stephen Kiama, Vice Chancellor, University of Nairobi, Dr. Sarah Ruto, Chair of the Covid 19 National Education Response Committee and Chair, Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD), Dr. Nicholas Letting, CEO KASNEB and Prof. Charles Ong’ondo, Associate Professor, Faculty of Education, Moi University.
Dr. Sarah Ruto, highlighted that the pandemic has affected the state of Education in the country but plans were in place to address the challenges brought about by the new norm.
Prof. Kiama stated that after the Cabinet Secretary for Edcuation ordered for the closure of the University owing to the Covid 19 pandemic, “the University of Nairobi closed for two weeks to plan on how to ensure continuity of learning after which staff and students were trained on how to move to remote/online teaching and learning”.
Prof. Kiama further indicated that the current state of Teaching and Learning and teaching operations at the University as far as the Covid 19 pandemic is concerned is good, and great strides have been made with more postgraduate and undergraduate students coming on board and embracing the new norm.
The online teaching and learning has had its own share of challenges in terms of access, accessibility and ease of learning. Being a new innovation different from the usual norm, Prof. Kiama used an illustration to explain the effects of change and innovation on people. He indicated that when you have an innovation in society, you expect to have early innovators, early adapters, late adapters and the laggards at the end. The University listened to all issues raised and addressed them in the planning of the lectures.
Some of the measure taken to address the challenges raised on online teaching and learning include providing data bundles for both lecturers and students, training lecturers and students on the new mode of learning, training to non-teaching staff on platforms to use and work online. According to Prof. Kiama, to a large extent, there is successful business continuity in the university operations.
Prof. Ong’ondo from Moi University who is a trainer of teachers indicated that teachers were not adequately trained on digital learning because the digital learning component has not been part of the training offered to teachers. What teachers are taught in their learning is integration of Information Communication Technology but because of lack of appropriate resources, implementation of this training has not been successful. Prof. Ong’ondo further stated that the Corona-19 pandemic brings about the need to infuse ICT in teacher training online platforms more strongly.
Dr. Letting in his remarks indicated that Covid-19 has affected KASNEB that offers training for a number of professional courses like CPA. KNEC-Exams. He proposed staggered exams for students taking into consideration all the MoH Covid-19 guidelines and re-opening of Universities and Tertiary institutions first then the rest (Secondary and Primary Schools) to follow suit in a staggered manner later.
Prof. Kiama on the other hand indicated that he would not advocate for Tertiary institutions to open first because Kenya is yet to understand the disease pattern well and if infections arose, it would spread so fast among the students in classes, hostel, cafeterias. In his opinion, he proposed opening lower primary and primary schools and secondary day schools first. Prof. Kiama proposed for Tertiary institutions to continue embracing online training until we are off the hook and Covid has been contained.
On revenue collection, Prof. Kiama indicated that the main revenue source for UoN is fees and this covers 75% of the budget, only 25% comes from the Government and therefore Covid-19 had affected the University revenue stream.
Dr. Letting encouraged multidisciplinary research during the Covid period with partnerships between professional bodies and institutions of higher learning and encouraged research to be done virtually with multidisciplinary institutions. Support should also be sought from NACOSTI and NRF locally for research funding.
In his closing remarks, Prof. Kiama indicated that Covid-19 has clearly brought an awakening for the Country and University that there is need to invest in technology and increase access to data and internet and make it cheaper for the students to access teaching and learning. He thanked the government for the Google loon and Telkom partnership to increase access to internet. The 4th industrial revolution is here with us and access to affordable internet and data is vital to realize these technological advancements.