As the number of COVID-19 infections surge and the cases recorded in schools reach alarming rates, parents, school leaders and teachers are thrown into a state of concern.
The Ghana Medical Association (GMA) has spoken and indeed the possibility of a second shutdown of the education sector looms.
Although very devastating in its effects, this disease has taught the Ministry of Education (MoE) and indeed all education managers a thing or two about thinking outside the box when it comes to making education services available to learners.
The e-learning option appears to be the way to go for the education sector.
This will ensure that lessons proceed without significant disruption in the academic calendar and curriculum.
It was a joy to see the MoE and the Ghana Education Service (GES) coming up with the ‘COVID-19 Coordinated Education Response Plan for Ghana’.
The plan detailed GES collaborating with GBC Radio and TV to develop programmes aimed at supporting learning. The Ghana Learning TV(GL-TV), a dedicated TV channel, was also introduced to make education services available to students during the closure of schools.
The Centre for National Distance Learning and Open Schooling (CENDLOS) whose work with iBox and iCampus content to all SHS students has had some value.However my concern is, now that schools have re-opened, are Ghanaian educators going back to our traditional way of teaching and learning? What happens to all the provisions made by the MoE/ GES?
For educational leaders and educators, hybridised learning, the use of both online and face-to-face teaching and learning option, may prove more expensive in terms of acquiring software and internet facilities, training facilitators and the even more complicated task of getting parents and students to come along with this idea of e-learning.
However, the long-term benefits are worth the investments.
First, the limited educational facilities will not be a hindrance to enrolments as more students can enrol into programmes that are undertaken virtually.
Second, in times when schools must be closed or when students are unable to attend classes due to ill-health or travel, this option can be used.
Third, teacher efficiency can also be improved because there is direct access to what teachers are teaching and interaction with students are with the utmost level of respect. These benefits of e-learning will further lead to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for quality education (Goal 4).
There are opportunities for further engagement of online education, especially with our fast-changing demographic profile and calibre of students accessing education now. There is room for improvement in e-learning, starting with a comprehensive government policy to guide implementation of e-learning in Ghana.
A policy in this direction will be a useful guide for managing our education system more effectively all the time, both in normal and ‘abnormal times’.
Schools can be encouraged to roll out e-learning services in addition to physical classes so that students who may be unable to attend physically can do so virtually.
Unfortunately, not all Ghanaian students can benefit from e-learning due to limited facilities. However, it is hoped that such spatially disadvantaged learners will benefit from infrastructural development associated with rolling out e-learning platforms.
These developments include extending electricity to remote towns and villages and providing access to cheap internet data. Additionally, the policy should provide a framework for supporting children from extremely poor and vulnerable households.
At the end of the day, the COVID-19 pandemic should leave Ghana with a more robust educational sector capable of withstanding the ‘shocks’ of any such unfortunate interferences.