The Federal Government mandated all schools closed as a precautionary measure towards the spread of covid-19. Primary and Secondary students had to stay at home for seven months before schools were opened in September and October by various states. Most Private schools adopted alternative means to deliver education through the use of remote learning.
Remote learning is where the student and the educator, or information source, are not physically present in a traditional classroom environment. Information is relayed through technology, such as discussion boards, video conferencing, and online assessments. Platforms like zoom, skype, WhatsApp were used by schools providing access to educational content. WhatsApp was used extensively by school teachers to give their students lessons and assignments through the parent for proper monitoring.
It was a perfect time for startups like uLesson, which was launched early this year. Founded by Sim Shagaya, uLesson will offer an app-based home education kit for students with an up-front yearly subscription price of around $70 and the option to pay as you go. The startup’s product pack contains a dongle, SD card, and a set of headphones to connect to Android devices.
One of the significant challenges faced in learning remotely was the infrastructure for widespread broadband. Sixty percent of the population is out of reach of the 4G network. In a situation where the internet connection is not strong enough, learning gets interrupted even sometimes the internet connection could go lost for hours.
The affordability of the internet was another challenge. According to the Director of Technology, Climate Change and Natural Resources Management at the Economic Commission for Africa (ECA), Jean-Paul Adam, “The average cost of 1GB of data in Africa is 7.12 percent of average monthly income, with some countries having rates as high as 20 percent, which is way above the 1 – 2 percent deemed to be affordable.”
Presently, only 17.8% of households in Africa have internet at home and the continent accounts for only 21% of worldwide internet users. It is estimated that over a quarter of a billion school children in Africa have been affected by COVID-19 and most of them lack the digital tools to continue their education online.
Students who learn remotely do have different dispositions on their learning process. Research was done on how students felt learning online using Anchor University students as a case study, and it showed that over 60% of the participants did not find it a fun learning through uploaded videos and other online learning channels. For example, most students say they concentrate more with a teacher in the class than when watching a video online.
As private organizations, startups, and governments develop ed-tech to bridge the gap in accessing quality educational resources in this trying time, the number of out-of-school children in Africa can be reduced through remote learning and providing widespread internet access in remote areas.