Interaction with learners

Letter – Impacts of Covid in schools and lessons learned

Ferdinand N Kamati

The Covid-19 pandemic has had serious repercussions not only on people’s health, but also on the way they learn, work or live. One of the most notable challenges created by Covid-19 is how to adapt to an education system built around the physical school. In addition, school closures due to Covid-19 have caused significant disruption to teaching and learning around the world. The pandemic has led to learning losses and increased inequality.

As the pandemic peaked in recent months, teachers and administrators were unprepared for the transition and were forced to implement emergency remote learning almost immediately. One of the limitations of emergency remote learning is the lack of personal interaction between teachers and learners.

However, several schools have taken initiatives to apply other methods, such as social media, to enhance remote learning and educational experience. In addition, other organizations such as NBC have helped implement different modes of learning to support remote teaching and learning by broadcasting course presentations and offering online distance learning platforms. and offline. Alarmingly, these losses were much higher among students whose parents are less educated and/or economically disadvantaged.

To reduce and reverse the long-term negative effects, three things are very important to mention, namely: implementing learning recovery programs, protecting the education budget and preparing for future shocks by building back better. This will help the education sector mitigate these challenges while building a more resilient system that can withstand future crises. Recovery measures are;

Implement learning recovery programs: The Department of Education should implement mandatory learning recovery models for the crisis. For proper implementation, an assessment should be carried out to identify students who need learning support. Programs should be organized to help teachers and students stay connected, access learning materials and continue their education during the period of enhanced quarantine measures when schools are closed. This will allow tracking of learners’ learning progress. Limited internet connectivity and access to e-learning devices in rural areas of Namibia, compounded by insufficient public support for distance education, pose challenges. In addition to learning continuity programs, schools can consider student assessment to gauge the extent of learning loss and identify students who have fallen behind and may need additional targeted support to catch up.

Protect the education budget: Given the significant financial constraints the country has faced during the pandemic, schools are facing financial shortages. This situation has been further exacerbated by government budget cuts, which have undermined the gains made in recent years in terms of access to education and improved learning outcomes. To ensure a resilient recovery for the next five years, it is essential that the education budget is protected and that the schools most in need of funding are supported. To help the most vulnerable students, the government should prioritize allocating much of the funding and resources to support schools providing distance education, especially schools serving children from marginalized or previously disadvantaged communities.

Yet learning recovery programs will not be feasible without substantial financial support. In the presence of budget cuts, wealthy families will be able to continue to finance school stimulus; however, low-income families will not be able to close this gap as easily. The Ministry of Education must take action to protect and strengthen education by allocating funds for teaching aids and equipment as well as providing additional support and social protection for teachers and support staff. The Ministry of Education should ensure that funds are used effectively and that resources are available to support learning recovery interventions, especially for learners from marginalized communities.

Prepare for future shocks by building back better: It is imperative that we not only recover from the pandemic, but use this experience to prepare for future crises. The Ministry of Education must strengthen its capacity to provide a model for education recovery for future crises. Schools should be better prepared to easily switch between face-to-face and remote learning as needed. This will protect learners’ education not only during future pandemics, but also during other shocks that may cause school closures such as natural disasters or adverse weather events.

It will also create opportunities for more individualized approaches to teaching and learning. It will be necessary to develop flexible programs that can be taught in person or online. Additionally, teachers need to be better equipped to manage a wide range of computing devices in the event of future school closures. Offering short courses to improve teachers’ digital skills will help to use the post-pandemic period to rebuild the education system and make it resilient. At the same time, it is important to build a future education system that can better use blended learning models to reach all learners at all levels and provide more individualized teaching approaches.

Although this is a long-term process, the Ministry of Education needs to increase the number of schools with internet connectivity as well as access to digital devices and equipment to enable greater using blended learning approaches in schools to move forward. So, building back better requires bold action and a vision of the kind of human capital the Ministry of Education needs to grow and prosper in the future.

It is important to reform the education system to support the continuity of learning and operational resilience in schools as well as the expansion of digitalization in the education sector. These efforts will help schools recover from the negative impacts of Covid-19 and other future crises while adapting to more resilient and flexible approaches.

* Ferdinand N Kamati is a PhD student, motivational speaker and academic researcher. Contact him at: [email protected]

2022-05-20 Staff reporter