The Coronovirus disease (Covid-19) is caused by widespread socio-economic impacts in almost all spheres of life throughout the globe. This fatal virus has so far infected more than 2.5 million people and caused about 177,000 deaths in almost all countries around the world. Due to unavailability of a vaccine and effective medicines, most of the countries around the world are implementing the strategy of “lockdown” to slow the spread of Coronovirus. More than a third of the earth’s population is under some form of restriction in an effort of limiting the number of cases and slowing the spread of virus. The lockdown is perhaps the only way left to fight virus, which has forced more than half of the human to stay at home and stay healthy.
This pandemic disease has affected education system worldwide, leading to the total shutdown of schools, colleges and universities. Most of governments around the world have temporarily closed all educational institutions in an effort to stem the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to UNESCO research, as of April 21, 2020, approximately 1.723 billion students have been impacted due to school closures in response to the pandemic, 191 countries have implemented nationwide closures and impacting about 98.4 percent of the world’s student population.
In response to significant demand, UNESCO has suggested the use of distance learning programs and open educational applications and platforms that schools and teachers can easily use to reach learners remotely and limit the disruption of education.
In Somaliland, the whole country closure of the education intuitions was announced during the second week of March although the closure was a bit earlier. Initially, the closure was for four weeks but now the National Preparedness Committee for Covid-19 has been extended another four weeks starting from 18 April, 2020, till May 15, 2020 – and perhaps schools and colleges will remain off till May 31 for the Ramadan and Eid-ul-Fitr vacation. The educational term in most of the schools and colleges was near at the final year.
Urgently to respond the staidness issue of covid-19 lockdown and in an attempt to save students from educational losses, the Ministry of Education and Science (MoES) implemented online based education and urged the primary and secondary schools to initiate online classes. Most schools have been applied distance learning system and thousands of students in cities and towns are glued to Television broadcasts and Smartphone screens as teachers take to online apps for lectures, tutorials and assessments. The Somaliland Ministry of Education and Science with the help of National Television launched Platform to support the students learn at home with the teachers delivering lectures via SLNTV and Radio without interruption. Most Teachers of the private schools have started to upload lectures through Google Classroom, YouTube, Facebook pages, WhatsApp and private televisions, so that students can go through these lessons at their convenience.
The challenges of online based learning in Somaliland.
In the light of National Preparedness Committee for Covid-19 guidelines, the education institutions of the country are trying to engage students through different online classes via the communication tools (TVs and Radios) and various social media platforms. It is confirmed that the online mode of teaching is not applicable for every student.
The traditional system of face to face teaching requires class activities and out of class activities. The teachers remain committed to guide students for building their ideas on their discipline. The significant advantage for students in such environment remains the presence of instructors, his motivation, support and guidance. In the online mode, it is a challenge for the teachers to perform the above mentioned roles. He can only respond by both synchronous and asynchronous design of mode in which he may be adopt a strategy to define, explain and exemplify the ideas.
Apart from that, many students, especially those living in rural areas, lack the steady internet connection and the devices to be able to learn remotely. Huge number of children has not taken part in online lessons during Coronovirus lockdown. However, all students might not have communication tools and internet connections in their homes and those who do may not afford expensive internet packages.
Furthermore, while mobile phones and Televisions can enable learners’ access to information, connect with their teachers; about half of the learners live in locations not served by mobile networks, almost in remote areas. Even teachers in some regions where Technology and other distance methodologies are less available, the online teaching has been even more difficult or impossible at this time of unprecedented educational disruption. Some households, Parents are not sure whether their children are studying or just spending time on the screen due to lack of knowledge capacity. As a ministry of education, it is important to conduct daily assessment of distance learning practices and follow up regularly with each student and pay special attention to disadvantaged background students, so they are not left behind.
The biggest challenge is being created around lab classes. Most of the lab classes of technical disciplines can’t be conducted in online. This is a challenge confronted for both teachers and students. Some schools are not going to carry on the education in online platforms considering psychological condition, accessibility availability of internet, and financial condition of the students as they may be the barriers of online education.
Government should be considered the element of “Social justice” and remove “social inequalities’ while making and formulating any policy. The internet is still a luxury for many households, while students from low income families are not able to quickly adjust towards online teaching. The problem is particularly impacted for students living in marginal rural areas. The authorities of education sector in Somaliland should plan to address most of these issues and try to convince internet companies to offer cheaper internet bundles for students during Coronovirus lockdown. This current situation requires active and supportive participation to create an enabling online environment for teaching and learning, which is best for the all students who are country’s asset and potential to adopt new ways of teaching and learning in these times.
Online medium based teaching is only effective for those who do have access to the right technology; there is evidence that learning online can be more effective in a number of ways. The main problems are a lack of capacity of some instructors and the affordability of the internet by the students. The online teaching system is being effectively used in technologically developed countries during COVID-19 lockdown but it cannot be fully followed in Somaliland. It has experienced its own problems, and should have to find local solution keeping in view the socio-economic conditions of all students.
By: Adam Duale Ali
Master of Development Studies
United International University