Educationists are concerned that e-learning which has been taken on by several urban schools, may widen the education gap in Uganda.
Schools across the country have remained closed since March 2020, as part of a lockdown announced by the government to forestall the spread of coronavirus disease. But several schools have also devised means to ensure continuity of learning using platforms like Zoom, Google classrooms and Microsoft Teams, among others.
The lessons are conducted using devices like laptops, smartphones or tablets which are connected to the internet. For some schools, the parents pay a monthly fee and are expected to provide internet data and avail the electric device for the children to study.
However, there seem to be mixed feelings among parents, pupils and teachers on the execution of e-learning and the level of inclusiveness, especially, among disadvantaged families.
John Bosco Kimuli, the Headteacher Dream Africa schools in Kansanga, Kampala, says the process makes life a little bit easier since all he needs is to log on to the internet to teach the pupils from wherever they are. Similarly, Solomon Banura, a parent at Dreams Africa Schools says the only way to educate a child under COVID -19 lockdown is through online lessons, to avoid the risk of infection with the deadly virus.
But Grace Luyima, the Headteacher of Praise Integrated High School says that the education gap is likely to widen since most students come from families, that cannot afford the cost of internet data, a device to log on to the internet and electricity at home. More than half of the 15 million children affected by the lockdown have been classed as disadvantaged.
“My school Praise Integrated High School on the outskirts of Kampala serves a diverse community, with more than half of the school population of 600 students disadvantaged.”
Patricia Namusisi, a senior three student at Praise Integrated says at her home they have no laptop and cannot afford to buy internet data for lessons, even when their school offered them for free.
Sister Judette Pulle, the Headteacher St. Benedict Grade School in Jinja says online education is also unfair to teachers who will not have access to gadgets to teach yet they are able. This, she says, is likely to increase the competence gap among the teachers in schools.
Fred Sentumbwe, the headteacher of Lakeside College Luzira, says that parents and learners require more sensitisation to dispel any fears and cultivate confidence among them.
Sustainable development goal four calls for inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.