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Children play at Kware village in Embakasi, Nairobi, yesterday. The children are home after the government closed schools as a measure to combat the spread of coronavirus. [ Stafford Ondego, Standard].

Education
The government ordered closure of schools two weeks ago over coronavirus.

Brief lessons, distractions, absence of assignments to assess students’ understanding and lack of gadgets are among the challenges plaguing home schooling.

Even as schools remained closed for the second week due to the coronavirus outbreak, the shortcomings of radio and television programmes are becoming evident, with calls to improve delivery.

Yesterday, parents said the radio programmes are brief and end even before children understand the topics.

It also emerged that the rush to catch news alerts on Covid-19, on radio and TV, has been prioritised by parents and other users of the electronic gadgets in homes.

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Lack of laptops, tablets or other electronic gadgets in many homes has hindered online learning, further complicating the home schooling initiative.

Digital gap

And even those with gadgets, the digital gap is so wide with varying levels of literacy among parents and children.

Getting children to sit quietly and follow the 20-minute lessons on radio is a challenge in this technological era where children prefer to watch animated videos.

And for television, achieving the much-needed concentration span for education lessons amid many entertainment programmes, for the socially active pupils, still remain a tall order even under strict parental guidance.

SEE ALSO: 134 more test positive for coronavirus

National Parents Association chairman Nicholas Maiyo said he has received reports of how children throng home playgrounds in their estates, with some roaming in the markets and shopping centres.

“This defeats the idea of closing down schools to ensure we do not expose our children to coronavirus. It is the responsibility of parents to ensure children remain home even if they fail to learn from the TV programmes,” said Maiyo.

He said many parents had complained that radio programmes start new lessons even before children have comprehended the previous one.

“There are no follow up assignments and even if we had them, how would teachers get feedback from children,” said Maiyo.

The Ministry of Education stepped up online learning with all public school children expected to access lessons through radio, Edu-Channel Television, Edu –TV Youtube and the Kenya Cloud.

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Under the plan, lessons are transmitted on the government-owned Edu-TV Channel available on free to air programmes and also through the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development (KICD) website.

Radio programmes run from Monday to Friday through a defined timetable. Learners are expected to listen to lessons through Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Kiswahili and English Service stations for up to eight hours every day.

It, however, emerged that learners in a given class could have covered different sections of the syllabus, thus creating disparities in understanding.

“Many schools have different curriculum implementation processes. Some could be ahead in syllabus coverage. This means, there is serious gap of understanding what is being taught by children,” said Akello Misori, Kenya Union of Post Primary Education Teachers (Kuppet) secretary general.

Mr Misori said learners could not be on same level in a topic to fit on a general education lesson, unless lessons are customized per school, per class.

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“In some cases, schools have no laboratories yet the lesson could be making reference to a laboratory setting. This means the sequence of learning is not harmonised,” said Misori.

He said while proper learning follows a timetable, the government is not keenly asking children to adhere to this.

“This means the likelihood of children tuning in for wrong lessons is high,” said Misori.

Kenya Primary School Heads Association chairman Nicholas Gathemia yesterday asked parents to keep children at home even if they are not attending lessons.

“Let them be indoors, even if they don’t learn. However, as teachers we still encourage parents to ensure children concentrate at home for lessons,” said Gathemia.

SEE ALSO: Everything you need to know about the coronavirus right now

Speaking to The Standard yesterday, the representatives of parents and teachers welcomed the initiative by President Uhuru Kenyatta to unveil the approval and licensing of Google Loon Service to enable universal 4G coverage.

High-speed internet

Uhuru said the service will extend Telkom Kenya’s 4G network to areas currently not covered by any of our mobile network providers. “All Kenyans will enjoy access to high-speed and affordable internet services,” said Uhuru.

Uhuru said this service will enable teachers and students to access educational materials remotely, especially during this challenging time; thus enabling learners to continue studying from home. 

The Google Loon and Telkom Kenya partnership allows students to learn through access to soft copy educational materials and assignments. 

Parents, however, said they lack gadgets to assist children access the Internet.

“Many homes do not have laptops. And many parents have not bought tablets for their children. Only available gadgets are parents mobile phones,” said Maiyo.

Private and international schools have already implemented virtual lessons with teachers interacting with their pupils from the comfort of their homes through the video conferencing tool that brings all learners together.

Parents and teachers who spoke to The Standard yesterday said if the laptops project had been implanted, this would have been the best opportunity to scale it up to benefit the children.

The laptops used during piloting of the Jubilee administration’s pet project were reportedly stolen or mishandled. Cases of misuse of the tablets were also reported even after each school was given Sh60,000 to build secure storage for the laptops.

A Ministry of Education report commissioned in 2018 found that national implementation of the project is at a paltry five per cent.


Coronavirus Coronavirus outbreak Education Schools closed

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