By Steven Enatu
Soroti District Local government is benefiting from the E learning project enrolled by the Ministry of Education and sports targeting learners affected by covid-19 lockdown.
Abraham Ekwaru, the Communication Officer Soroti District told this website on 18th October 2021 that the program is targeting 35 Primary schools and 7 secondary schools across the District as the host places for learners in Primary four to primary seven for Primary level and senior one to four for secondary.
This is aimed at bridging the gap of lost time of learning as schools remain closed. Currently Head teachers are gathering data of learners and talking to the parents on the arrangement.
With this program, learners can learn at home provided there is internet connectivity, knowledge of operating a smart phone and Data.
“We have already conducted a survey and identification of learners is ongoing. We use data from the child’s parents. This program is supposed to start now but we are still getting the necessary data and the mechanism on how we are going to implement it,” he said.
He however acknowledges the challenge of internet accessibility and e-learning gadgets and therefore calls upon the ministry of Education to look into.
Veronica Nyachwo, the head teacher of Akaikai Primary school said the program will not work in the rural schools where most learners and their parents do not know how to use smart phones while others do not have even small phones.
She said while collecting the data for parents and Children for the program, they discovered that some parents have no smart phones and only five welcomed the program saying they will rely on their village mates who have the smart phones to get learning content for their children.
“I don’t see any success in it. Rural schools like Akaikai primary school when I was collecting data, some parents have no phones, some don’t have even small phones and some cannot even read and write,” she said.
Benson Ekwee, the Executive Directive Public Affairs Center said the initiative is good, however government needs to work on its ICT policy, ICT infrastructure, improvise laptops and work on internet connectivity.
He said countries like Rwanda started teaching ICT in primary and each child was provided with a laptop.
“So by the time you introduce programs like this, the technology has been appreciated and the structures are in place but in our case we don’t even have the structure, the cost of the internet is very high and the government is imposing a retrogressive tax on the internet. Actually sometimes I like saying that the government is her own enemy. They bring good ideas, then introduce bad policies, “he said.
Ekwee said that to pilot such a program, government needs to establish internet infrastructure and provide smart phones or laptops to the learners.
A look at Digital Uganda Vision
Research ICT Africa published a report on The state of information and communication technology (ICT) in Uganda with special focus on Digital Uganda Vision which provides a framework to uphold the national Vision 2040 through building a digital society that is “… secure, sustainable, innovative, transformative … to create a positive social and economic impact through technology-based empowerment.”
However, for Vision 2040 to achieve its desired outcomes, the report pinpoints some policy interventions and lack of government coordination that threaten the effective implementation of the vision.
These include; the low internet and mobile penetration due to poor ICT infrastructure, poverty, and digital literacy, lack of affordability of data and devices for the majority of Ugandans and telecommunication market concentration particularly outside urban areas.
When the covid-19 pandemic hit the world, Uganda was not spared. The country registered its first case on March 25th 2020 by then the country had already put measures to curb the spread by enforcing a total lockdown and the education sector was affected as schools were closed hence education and learning of 15 million learners was affected.
Subsequently, some High institutes of learning like Uganda Christian University came up with ideas to enroll students for exams online. A move that first faced opposition by the top leadership in the country saying it would perpetuate cheating. Government in an attempt to ensure that children continue to learn, came up with a mechanism of e-learning through radio, television and learning materials.
These created a big gap in education as witnessed in the national exams results for 2020 where urban schools performed well and the rural schools poorly in exams done amidst the pandemic with inconsistency of physical learning.