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One area that has been severely hit by the novel covid-19 pandemic is the educational sector. The President, in his first address to the nation, announced the closure of schools and other institutions in order to control the spread of the virus. This directive has affected teaching and learning at all levels of education in the country. Consequently, most institutions are fashioning out various ways of reaching out to their students. Some private schools now provide tuition to their pupils through online educational sites and on social media. Heads and teachers of these private schools have created class WhatsApp groups (with members consisting of parents and guardians) where lessons in the form of text and audio messages are posted for pupils to access.

Government has also dedicated a digital platform on TV to help students catch up with their academic work. Other media outlets like Citi TV and Joy News have all rolled out innovative ways of getting the students engaged during this pandemic era. The telecommunication companies have also not been left out of these innovative ways of reaching out to students. Some of these companies have rolled out free internet services on selected educational websites for use by students.  All these interventions are geared towards bridging the gap created in the educational sector by COVID-19.

Similarly, some tertiary institutions have taken up the challenge and developed various strategies to continue with tuition whiles schools remain closed.  One such institution is the University of Cape Coast, which was reported in the media to have announced the resumption of lectures on April 22, 2020 with exams slated for June 15, 2020. The university is reported to have stated that they would be using their Moodle platform to carry out online teaching.

Kings University College, a private University located at Bortianor in Accra has also rolled out the Kings Virtual Classroom for its students to continue with their classes online, other institutions are also fashioning out various ways of helping to meet their students’ needs in these trying times. The various interventions by all the major stakeholders are laudable but these initiatives have also brought to light certain challenges that need to be tackled in order to ensure the success of the various intervention programmes.

One of the major challenges facing most Ghanaians is the cost of electricity. According to information sourced from the Ministry of Energy website, access to electricity in Ghana is at a rate of 83.24%. Although successive governments have helped to increase power generation to meet the demands of the citizenry, the cost of power and issues relating to its regular and uninterrupted supply have been the bane of consumers.

Additionally, cost of data is a major hindrance to accessing the internet by most Ghanaians. Whereas the cost of data in Western countries is reasonable and accessible, same cannot be said about Ghana. In Europe and America for instance, it is very common for shoppers and visitors to supermarkets and corporate institutions to enjoy free Wifi services making life comfortable and easier for people in those parts of the world. According to a news report, the World Bank Vice President for Africa, Mr. Hafez Ghanem had cause to complain to the Minister of Communication, Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful about the high cost of data in the country. In the report, a research finding released in October 2018 by the Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) showed that more than 2.3 billion people live in countries where just 1GB of mobile data is difficult to afford.

One other major impediment to the utilization of online teaching and learning is students’ low exposure to ICT facilities. Even though ICT is part of the primary school curricula, most schools do not have the infrastructure to facilitate its teaching and learning. It is thus not surprising when Mr. Richard Appiah Akoto, a Ghanaian ICT teacher came into the lime light when he posted a picture of himself teaching ICT with a chalkboard drawing of Microsoft word. His story captures the state of ICT education in Ghana.

The pandemic has brought to the fore the various challenges that are encountered by citizens of developing countries. The innovations by the various stakeholders in the educational sector to ensure that teaching and learning continues despite the challenges of the COVID-19 situation must be applauded by all. This should also serve as a wake-up call for government and the relevant bodies to pay more attention to issues of ICT and internet usage in our educational institutions.

Source: Mustapha Jimah

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