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Before schools re-open, a few things must be done

By Boniface Areba
Tuesday, September 15th, 2020
Pupils in class. Photo/Courtesy
In summary

Covid-19 has resulted in long-term ramifications that forced the Education Ministry to scrap off the 2020 education calendar, with over 18 million learners countrywide disrupted from school. 

However, with the implementation of the response and recovery plan aimed at providing quality, equitable and inclusive education to learners during and after the crisis to ensure learning continues, there appears to be confusion around the re-opening of schools.   

The government is expected to allocate funds through the ministry to support education institutions as they face financial constraints; however, it is not clear the extent these institutions will be ready by the time they re-open. 

There ought to be proper measures put in place to address such issues. One such measure is blended learning, which means that education institutions must adopt online learning.      

According to the UNESCO 2020 Covid-19 Education Response, ‘Adverse consequences of school closure’, demand for distance learning skyrockets when schools close and often overwhelms existing portals to remote education.

Moving learning from classrooms to homes at scale and in a hurry presents enormous challenges, both human and technical.

As schools are closed, parents are expected to both facilitate the learning of children at home and perform other tasks that support households.

This is especially true for parents with limited education and economic resources.

 In addition, paucity of access to technology or sound internet connectivity is a hurdle to continuous learning, particularly for learners from underprivileged families, which at the end begs the question, ‘Are we really prepared for the re-opening of schools?’

 Everyone appreciates the efforts by government in ensuring schools are opened in due time, especially in providing masks to learners across all learning institutions.

However, there are challenges in establishing the status of education institutions in readiness for the planned re-opening. 

To be able to do this, Education ministry should adopt a system for effectively assessing and showcasing progressive preparedness of each institution by validating and analysing data collected through reports.

This will make it possible for education stakeholders to address key issues before they re-open.  

This can be achieved using a unique model that acts as a progressive tracking system to showcase how well-prepared learning institutions across the country are to re-open in terms of percentage coverage and numerical values of the data provided.

 This model has systems that would identify challenges for ease of projecting correct number of pupils to be accommodated in a given space.

It would create a central database that allows effective administrative, finance, procurement, and logistics features that gives an overview of needs of different learning institutions across the country.

Additionally, it would aid in generating reports that can be used as a progressive tracker especially in procuring sanitisers and temperature testing tools.   

There is also a need to have a tool that enables the quality assurance team within the ministry to fast track and identify institutions that are not fully compliant with the current Covid-19 measures put in place before learning institutions are allowed to re-open.   

Conclusively, it is imperative to be ahead of the game, purposely to envisage seamless learning in critical situations as evidenced by Covid- 19, to ensure learners do not lose out on essential learning times that could have an impact on their developmental milestones. 

As such, the main focus should not be about re-opening of schools in January but rather the need to generate accurate and progressive tracking data to determine the preparedness of education institutions across the country with regards to the stipulated health measures to contain the pandemic.

I am willing to discuss how the proposed unique model for progressive tracking education institutions can be operationalised. — The writer is a Management Consultant and Programme and Model Developer —  [email protected]