Resilience as classes resume for University, College and Form Six students

Tuesday June 2 2020

 

By Paul Raphael

Yesterday June 1, was a back to school day for University, College and six students. It’s no secret that this ‘back to school’ experience was like no other before – for students, their parents/guardians as well as educators.  
Our response to Covid-19 from the individual to community to national level has necessitated adjustments in how we go about our day-to-day life.
One big change – instituted by the government – was the closure of schools across the country.
The day-to-day learning experience of an ordinary student changed drastically – from a classroom setting to self-learning at home, which as we all know requires discipline and self motivation.
This also meant adjustments for educators on how to deliver a learning experience to student’s at home as well as parents managing the changes at home.
We’ve witnessed technology being used to address some of the challenges arising from this experience.
From instruction videos on YouTube, Khan Academy and the like to lessons over zoom/skype calls to learning platforms that are bespoke to specific learning institutions and curricula such as Vodacom Foundation’s instantschools, smartclass, shuledirect, mtabeapp, etc.
All these are addressing the learn-from-home experience in the current condition. With a smart phone and data (even feature phone and phone credit in case of mtabe app) student’s had access to educational content to fill up their learning experience. These initiatives are not the whole answer to the challenge at hand –access to technologies such as  smartphones is not universal in Tanzania.  
Access to content is not only limited by devices. Electricity, network coverage, data and phone credit all contribute to access.
Solving this part of the access equation involves the learners and more so infrastructure providers such as telecom companies.
We saw various initiatives by the likes of Vodacom Tanzania as a contribution to solving the access problem.
A notable contribution was in the form of zero-rated educational sites. Hisham Hendi, CEO of Vodacom Tanzania notes, “As a responsible corporate citizen of Tanzania, we saw the need to empower learners during the time of school closure due to COVID and decided to extend our Instant Schools ‘free education; proposition by offering free access to other educational websites in Tanzania, allowing learners from all stages to access their school websites and other resources for free.”
This means a person with a Vodacom simcard can access these specific educational sites even when they have 0 MBs on their smarphone! Educational websites zero-rated by Vodacom include smart Class, DIT E-Learning, Smart Class Africa, UDSM’s Learning Management System and Shule Direct and Vodacom’s Instant Schools.
Other sites include that of the Ministry of Health, Ministry of Information and Directorate of Information Services.
 This zero-rating initiative is a much needed contribution in helping students and educators to cope with current circumstances.
What changes as university, college and form six students get back to school? There’s no doubt the learning experience this time round comes with washing hands with clean water and soap, using sanitizers, wearing masks and social distancing.
We will most likely continue to see extensive use of technology in all facets of the learning experience –registration, payments, lectures, discussions, seminars, testing/examination, research etc.
 Vodacom Tanzania invites submissions of more educational portals and websites to be zero rated. “We welcome administrators from government schools including primary, secondary and higher learning institutions  in order to have their portals and other relevant online resources for their students zero rated during this time,” says Hisham Hendi, Vodacom Tanzania CEO.
While there is no one solution to the challenges of the learning experience during this time, every small contribution is part of the solution.
From zero rated educational websites, to parents and guardians picking up the instructor mantle at home, to hand washing, using sanitizers and social distancing in schools, to local online solutions serving educational content catered for students and much more – all are part of the solution.
We must all as a community contribute in whichever way we can, no matter how small that may seem, to ensure everyone’s safety during these times. That way we remain resilient and win this fight.