Govt's e-learning conundrum

by Sakeus Iikela

More than 790 000 students will be unable to access the government's e-learning platform. Photo: Reuters


ONLY 13 000 pupils will be able to access the ministry's e-learning platforms during the national lockdown.

This is less than 2% of the total population of 804 000 pupils in state and private schools in the country.

Education minister Anna Nghipondoka revealed these figures last week at the Covid-19 Communication Centre in Windhoek.

She said the majority of pupils who registered with the ministry's online platforms are from the Khomas region, some from Oshana and a small number from the Omaheke region.

Teachers are expected to start offering pupils online study materials this week when schools reopen for the second term.

The rolling out of alternative teaching and learning methods is part of the ministry's contingency plan to ensure school education continues during the national lockdown.

Nghipondoka said although schools are expected to officially open today (Monday), pupils will not return to classrooms.

She said teachers are not allowed to travel to schools, but are expected to resume their official duties.

The ministry already has several online platforms which will be utilised to distribute material to pupils, Nghipondoka said.

She said the ministry will establish material development hubs from this week with teachers grouped according to subjects.

“The online learning platform is already there. We are not starting afresh. We will just be enhancing what we already have. Some ministerial institutions offer open learning, like Namcol, and we want to capitalise on that,” she said.

“After the material is developed, we are going to print it out and distribute it among pupils. We want to ensure all pupils are registered on that platform. “We are not only talking about online platforms; we are talking about using multimedia to reach pupils,” she said.

According to Nghipondoka, teachers will be expected to return to schools from 6 May onwards.

She said they would continue improving e-learning platforms and ensure schools are prepared with regards to hygiene.

“We need to make sure we have enough sanitisers, cleaning material and everything required to ensure schools are safe. Some schools don't have water or ablution facilities. Those are some of the things we need to look at before the children come back,” she said.

According to Nghipondoka, e-learning platforms will not be used for the assessment of pupils, but only aim to stimulate them during the lockdown.

Apart from few pupils having access to e-learning platforms, the ministry is faced with countless other challenges hindering the successful implementation of this system.

The ministry's deputy executive director for formal education, Edda Bohn, revealed about 32%, or 614 schools, have no telecommunication connectivity, 18%, or 346, are without electricity, and 13%, or 250 schools, have no access to proper sanitation. The deputy director also revealed about 211 schools have no potable water.

She said there were about 370 000 disadvantaged pupils who will need special attention during the lockdown.

Bohn said the ministry is planning to deploy water tankers to some schools without water.

“Plans have been submitted for costing and will be implemented. The same applies to the 250 schools without sanitation. We are also capturing the details of schools with deplorable sanitation facilities to be included in the plan to renovate these facilities,” she said.