Challenges of remote learning highlight inequality at educational institutions
The requirements for students to be able to tune into online classes, cannot be met by all.
Che Guevara once said: “The walls of the educational system must come down. Education should not be a privilege, so that the children of those who have money can study.”
Even after his death, he reminds us that everyone should have access to education just like South Africa’s world-renowned Constitution would suggest.
Educational turbulence due to pandemic
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused overwhelming turbulence in all aspects of life, different sectors of the economy and mostly to education: Learning and teaching.
Some institutions of higher learning are already implementing remote learning as of the means to resume the academic programmes. The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) has already distributed data and laptops to students.
Resources for online classes a challenge to many
Attending online classes requires a reliable internet connection, data, a quiet and proper working space, a laptop and other resources.
I don’t think this shift is possible to a student who resides in a one- or two-roomed informal settlements of Gugulethu, Khayelitsha, Alexandra, uMlazi and Cator Manor. Social distancing is not even practical because a family of seven shares this tiny space.
The Department of Higher Education, Training, Science and Innovation introduced online lessons for students studying at TVET Colleges.
Again, I don’t think this will be of any use to a TVET student who has to date, not received a single cent of the NSFAS [National Student Financial Aid Scheme] allowance — yet it’s been three months into the academic year. Remote learning does not favour a student who resides in a rural area where it’s even an issue to receive calls and SMSes because there’s no mobile network.
One of the lockdown regulations was that municipal libraries should be closed. This makes things worse because at least libraries have WiFi and computers for the public to use.
Proof SA is not ready for Fourth Industrial Revolution
This pandemic is proving that South Africa is not ready for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) if its implementation calls for some people to be left behind. It also highlights the gap that exists between the rich and the poor, and that the marginalised and disenfranchised are always left behind.
It is therefore my wish that whatever solutions institutions of higher learning come up with, should accommodate everyone, not just the elite.
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