Challenges of online learning during the Coronavirus pandemic collected from GYLA members in Kenya

Introduction

Due to rising cases of Coronavirus infections, the Government of Kenya made the decision in March 2020 to close all schools, including public & private, basic and higher learning institutions forcing all students to stay at home and access learning resources via digital means. Our community of AiduFellows in Kenya including secondary and university students was hugely disrupted in their learning and the long stays at home away from school, especially with limited access to the internet, study libraries, smart devices and laptops for them to continue engaging with learning material.

Aiducation Kenya was able to get in touch with some AiduTalents towards the end of 2020 to collect experiences so far on how online learning in college is going on with the following stories below. Meet Moffat, Arnold and Tracy who were excited to share from their struggles and their experience of the online studying with the limited infrastructure and internet.

1. Moffat Nyabuti, AiduAlumni Class of 2018.

March this year was when the first covid-19 positive case was recorded in Kenya. Immediately, measures to slow down community transmission were enforced, among them, suspension of physical learning. All students across the country had to pack up their belongings and return to their homes. Later on, the government gave the green light for schools to transit to online learning so that students were engaged at home and syllabuses covered. Great initiative, right? I thought so too then. In 2013, the online learning policy for universities was birthed. Seven years later, the policy was just barely implemented for many reasons, best of them being inadequate funding. However, since that policy already existed, it didn’t come as a surprise for varsities. I wouldn’t say the same for high schools. Throughout my high school period, safe to say I never participated in any meaningful e-learning session because there was none. Albeit, the Kenyan government had thrown schools in uncharted waters.

Challenges faced by Kenyan Aidutalents in e-learning include; financial constraints, inadequate e-learning infrastructure, staying motivated, computer literacy, distractions at home and uncertainty about the future among others. I will limit myself to the first two.
 

Moffat attending class from a mobile phone at home.

Inadequate e-learning infrastructure:

These include computers, network access and internet connectivity. Only a handful of students have their own laptops, desktops or smartphones to access learning materials and other student services. An E-Readiness Survey Report (2013) points out that the networked PCs available per 100 university student’s ratio was 3.8. Quite low. Even lower for high school students. Also, not all corners of our country have strong network access and internet connectivity. This is a huge setback for Aidutalents from such places. While their classmates from privileged towns and homes have good network access and internet connectivity, they don’t.

Financial constraint:

In April 2020, our economy took a nosedive, the effects were devastating. Most Kenyans were affected, be it from the massive layoffs, delayed salaries, pay cuts of up to 50% or diminished returns for those in the Jua Kali sector (cottage industries) who are the majority of our population. With most families having reduced income, Kenyans resorted to servicing basic needs (food, shelter, clothing) first, with everything else becoming a luxury and coming second including education. Lack of affordable and adequate Internet bandwidth is another challenge. Though the cost of bandwidth in most institutions has gone down following the introduction of bandwidth subsidy by the government through the Kenya Education Network (KENET), it is still high in comparison to developed countries.

It goes without saying that the solution to these two biggest challenges is providence. Providing adequate e-learning infrastructure for our Aidutalents. Just like Nelson Mandela once said, the world would be a cleaner place if everyone would sweep around their doorstep, AiduFriends and Donors can make an impact in addressing the challenges of e-learning in Kenya by supporting with gadgets (laptops, desktops, smartphones) and internet connectivity to aid in their learning. Education still remains the most powerful tool for Building A Better Kenya!

Moffat Nyabuti is currently a second-year undergraduate student at University of Nairobi taking a course in Bachelor of Pharmacy

2. Arnold, AiduAlumni Class of 2019

Hi everyone! I am Arnold, an AiduAlumni and a first year student at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology taking a degree course in Bsc. Mechanical Engineering. I feel honored to share my virtual learning experience here. During this period we have been experiencing a dip in form in various sectors especially the education sector and I would like to share how that has affected me.
I live at Gongoni along the Malindi-Lamu road. In terms of terrain, it is plain and relatively flat hence internet wise the connection is fairly good. The school provides for E-learning bundles ranging from 4-10GB worth of data for effective studies which is not enough for the whole month. I am therefore forced to top up for the rest of the days and renewal is not automatic as it takes some days before they resend. However, the cost of acquiring data bundles for internet connection is really expensive especially if the classes involve video conferencing. This has resulted in me missing some valuable classes in the process.

Arnold trying to attend class from his mobile phone while ensuring the device continues to charge. 

Another major challenge that I have faced is lack of a computer/laptop. I attend my classes via a Smartphone which doesn’t support some functions that are very necessary for my online studies. It has a storage capacity of 16GB which is also not enough. The study and reference documents sent by my lecturers take up space. I usually download them, use them and delete them. Considering the limitations of human memory, this becomes an inconvenience hence I am forced to look for a source of reference. I therefore download the document again.  Another problem experienced when using a Smartphone during online classes is that it is not convenient for multitasking for example the signing in section and the question section appear in a single tab unlike a laptop where it appears in two different slides which is more convenient. We use KENET online conferences, Webinar or Google classroom depending on the redirection given by the link. Considering the nature of these apps, this is an overload to a 1GB RAM phone.


Solar power set up and charging point for devices at Arnold’s home.

I do not have a specific place where I study. I usually sit next to the sitting room table where I can get access to a charging point. We do not have electricity at home. We use solar so I have to be close to the solar point which is situated on top of the sitting room table. I study in my room during the morning lessons because the phone still has power acquired from overnight charging. For the remaining classes I have to sit close to the charging point.

These challenges cannot be fully addressed by my family owing to the adverse effects of the COVID-19 Pandemic that has resulted to reduced income.  I am sure my colleagues in the network face similar challenges and therefore look forward to hear how everyone else is going about it!

Arnold is an AiduAlumni of the year 2019 who received his Aiducation Scholarship in the year 2015. Arnold is a first year student taking a Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering at Dedan Kimathi University of Technology.

3. Tracy Ngonyo, AiduAlumni Class of 2018

https://youtu.be/P63onc5P7QU 

This is a video of Tracy Ngonyo, an AiduTalent from Kenya and a second year student at the University of Nairobi studying Broadcast Production.

Just like many other students, Tracy has been faced with a challenge of attending her classes online. She explains to us the challenges she has encountered in making her online learning effective. These challenges include lack of a laptop for video conferencing and reliable internet connection which are now basic requirements for attending their online classes.

Aiducation Kenya would like to say thank you to the following for helping compile this: Boniface Mahulo, Mercy Murigi, Bill Orangi, Tracy, Arnold and Moffat.

Other news