COVID-19: Education goes online

Pupils at Pink Tower Children’s House attend an online class conducted by Miss Ann Nduta,/ CGTN

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused far-reaching disruptions to normal life globally. Education, like many other aspects of life, has been disrupted as schools were ordered shut in many countries.

In Kenya, this closure of learning institutions has inspired an evolution in education. Teachers now hold online classes in a bid to keep the country’s students learning.

CGTN Africa visited one school in Nairobi offering online education as students and pupils remain holed up in their homes as a way of further preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“It was not easy for us at the beginning because we work with very young children. Some of our children are 18 months, to six-year-olds. And so, when we launched that to the parents, that we would be going on with the virtual classes, we had quite a lot of anxious parents who doubted that was for them, for their ages, but yes, we had the will and so we pushed for it. And luckily the parents along the way, yes, supported that. And so it has a sort of now worked, it is working,” said Phyllis Kamau, the Director at Pink Tower Children’s House.

Every day, teachers engage children in virtual classes to ensure continuity of the learning process. The children have grown to love the sessions as they get to not only continue their education, but also interact with their classmates albeit online.

A visit to one of the classes shows just how enjoyable the lessons are for the children. The classes are filled with laughter, jokes and songs which makes them very inviting, especially for the young learners.

For teachers, the new form of learning requires just as much discipline as the physical classrooms.

“We have our ground rules just like we had in (physical) class that guide us in our classes. So, we have come up with online rules that we tend to follow,” said Ann Nduta, a teacher at Pink Tower Children’s House.

“It’s quite a challenge with them at home. I would say that. But as teachers, we come up with our own hacks to make them listen. They want to learn and this is what we have since we can’t come to school.”

Parents have also grown to love the online classes, despite it demanding more of them.

As children take their classes at home, their parents are forced to take a keener interest in their sessions and progress of school work.

“You become more ingrained in what your child is actually doing because there is a lot of drawing, there is a lot of number work, there is a lot of hidden tests and stuff. So, you find yourself at least you are at the forefront of what your child is doing and you know exactly what they are learning. Because before we just used to get like a daily report of what they have done. But now you can see and track through exactly what it is they have been doing and how they are coping in school,” said Michael Karanja, a parent of two children taking online classes.

Phylis is confident the experience gained form the online classes will come in handy in Kenya’s quest to incorporate more digital learning in its education curriculum.

The current government pledged to introduce digital learning aids to pupils and students as a way of digitizing education and ultimately preparing students better for the ever-growing digital space.

“If they (the government) would go ahead and roll that, even if not now, but in faces along the years, then I think it would be a very good thing because remember, even after this pandemic, should everyone adopt these or not, a teacher would easily run a class online and still be able to achieve whatever it is that they wanted to achieve with their students. I think it would be a good thing if everyone would, would access that computer somewhere,” said Phylis.

As Kenya continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the government hopes to make positive strides that would allow it safely reopen, ultimately allowing schooling to resume.

The Cabinet Secretary in the Education Ministry, George Magoha, said last month the government is targeting September as a possible time o reopen schools with advice from health experts.