The last couple of weeks have been nothing but traumatizing, unpredictable and confusing to a lot of people globally, including students like me. Rumors about imminent school closures (which have become a reality), postponement and cancellation of exams as well as the closure of other learning facilities such as libraries and student support services have not only hit students hard but school authorities, parents and stakeholders in education as they struggle to find ways to adjust and not disrupt the academic calendar. Even though the physical classroom experience is different from virtual classrooms, it is obvious that in order to ensure continuity in the school calendar and keep students actively studying while away from their school premises, online learning is the way to go.
Indeed, the fight against the corona virus pandemic (Covid-19) and the need for social distancing requires the closure of schools as one of the drastic measures that most governments all around the world are implementing alongside various public health interventions to help contain, manage and prevent further spread of the virus. Therefore, there is no denying the fact that schools being shut down is in the best interest of students and the general populace. However, this raises a major issue of concern to me regarding available alternatives for teaching and learning especially within the Ghanaian context.
As a Ghanaian student studying abroad during this global pandemic, I face similar challenges that students in the Ghanaian educational system face pertaining to school closures. However, I cannot help but wonder the impact of this unpredictable circumstance on teaching and learning especially considering the economic and infrastructural hindrances that would linger around an attempt to move teaching and learning in Ghana online.
It is undeniable that online educational platforms such as seekapor.com have been phenomenal in promoting online teaching and learning by providing free educational content and other learning materials and tools to facilitate the process of acquiring knowledge online. However, at a time like this where online learning has become a necessity and not an option, I am concerned about the many hindrances that Ghanaian students are likely to face in that regard. As a lot of educational institutions especially institutes of higher education in Europe and other parts of the world have moved to online learning, I am increasingly troubled about the impact of school’s closing down in Ghana and what practical strategies we have in place.
The questions I ask myself include: “Will schools be proactive enough to immediately put together online learning strategies that all students can benefit from? Will students be prepared for a transition to online learning and most importantly, are there resources needed to help keep students online when they need to be available online? Internet, electricity, computers and smart phones are some of the basic logistics or resources needed for online learning and I wonder how many families can afford laptops and stable internet for their children to learn online.
This is to say that online learning and access to the internet must not be reserved for emergency situations or only be made available to students from middle class families who can afford it. If it is the right of every Ghanaian child to have access to an education, then it is certainly their right to get access to the resources that would help make their education better, which includes access to online teaching and learning tools. I hope the current situation is a trigger to the Ghana Education Service and governments in other developing countries to effectively inculcate ICTs in schools and implement educational policies that will give students from all economic backgrounds access to the internet and basic technological infrastructure. This I believe will enable students to study online in times like these.