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Technology

Coast school gives glimpse of hits, misses of e-learning

Teacher Aurelia Manyeti during a live recording of a Maths lesson at St Josemaria Escriva Academy Makupa in Mombasa County
Teacher Aurelia Manyeti during a live recording of a Maths lesson at St Josemaria Escriva Academy Makupa in Mombasa County. PHOTO | FAUSTINE NGILA | NMG 

Aurelia Manyeti prepares class lessons every night before she retires to bed. Determined to guarantee syllabus continuity for the second term, she teaches Standard Eight pupils via online platforms.

With schools closed and the Ministry of Education insisting that Covid-19 will not lead to deferment of national exams, video conferencing has been a perfect innovation for her.

Every mid-morning, she drives from her Makupa residence in Mombasa to St Josemaria Escriva Academy Makupa, where she records a 20-minute video Maths lesson which she later uploads on Facebook for use by the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) examination candidates.

"I record one video lesson and edit it for uploading. Because other subjects require less guidance, I teach Maths content online and this has helped me cover over three-quarters of this year's syllabus," the 35-year-old told Digital Business.

Being the head teacher of the school, she has teamed up with five other teachers in the past four weeks to keep education ongoing via video communication platform Zoom. And despite a global concern over Zoom's security features, she says the journey has been smooth so far.

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"We have a timetable for all subjects that we have shared with pupils and their parents. Our teachers take pupils through three lessons every day under the guidance of their parents," she reveals. From 5pm to 9pm every Monday to Friday, pupils are engaged in class lessons through the interface of smartphones or laptops of their parents. The school chose this time as it coincides with the time parents are at home from work.

"KCPE candidates across the country are tense to hear that the national exams will be conducted yet they have not been attending classes. We aim to erase this tension from their minds," Ms Manyeti remarks.

However, 100 percent class attendance is never achieved, as three parents had travelled upcountry with their children before the school rolled out the e-learning programme.

Out of the 20 remaining pupils who live around Mombasa County, she says, at least 18 have daily access to the three 40-minute online lessons.

Samuel Gitonga, one of the candidates, says the e-learning has been a major boost to most of his friends who cannot study on their own.

"I find it enjoyable because we get a chance to ask questions. This will help us cover the syllabus but I empathise with those who are not aware of e-learning. I advise them to make good use of their time at home," the 14-year-old says. He adds that making a personal timetable and avoiding distractions can help pupils in public schools prepare for exams.

Charles Omogi, a parent at the school appreciates the efforts made by the school for coming up with e-lessons, observing that it is essential in preparing students for exams.

"Our role as parents has been to help our sons and daughters in logging onto the platform, ensuring they concentrate, and supervising them as they do the homework they are given. But we have faced internet outage in the middle of lessons," he says.

Internet outage is just one of the challenges facing e-learning.

Frederick Kobia, a Kiswahili teacher at the school said one of the challenges is distractions by for instance younger kids who disturb candidates, especially due to the excitement that comes with seeing a screen with live faces.

"Our major drawback has been marking the assignments we give. You are never sure what every pupil has scored when we give weekly exams every Friday,” he says.

“Remote marking is difficult. So we leave that to parents and this harms our ability to know their progress."

He admits that teachers have to rely on their knowledge of every pupil's ability which is counter-productive for pupils who work very hard to improve their grades.

While class discipline is usually maintained throughout the lessons, background noise has been distracting the learners, especially those who come from large families, as most study rooms are not sound-proof.

Since March, there has been a global uproar over the weak security features on the Zoom videoconferencing platform, with online meetings being zoombombed with pornographic material, thereby halting the meetings.

However, the biggest hurdle for education in Kenya is not cyber-attacks, but the absolute lack of required tools to implement what the government calls 'Out of Classroom Learning' project, as thousands of families cannot afford TV sets, computers, smartphones and internet connectivity in a period of economic inactivity.

As the Kenya Institute of Curriculum Development keeps encouraging parents via SMS to help their children attend to radio lessons, pupils with special needs have been locked out.

Frequent power cuts and slow internet connection in rural areas are also a huge deterrent for those who can afford such learning equipment.

This has created a natural selection environment for the access to education in the country during the Covid-19 pandemic, where only the fittest will survive in this capitalist economy.

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