Learning under lockdown: Here’s how Africa has turned to remote schooling

With the formal school year hanging on by a meagre thread, African institutions have turned to technology to assist remote learning.

Learning under lockdown: Here’s how Africa has turned to remote schooling

The coronavirus may not have hit Africa as badly as other parts of the world but with schools and universities closed because of mass lockdowns across the continent, many children are turning on the television to keep up with their studies. 

“Home School”, “Teachers’ Room” and “School on TV” are just some of the distance education programmes that private channels have launched to try to compensate for the closures. 

“This is to prevent COVID-19 from winning where it hurts the most, in the area of knowledge,” Massamba Gueye, a teacher-researcher in Senegal, told AFP.

In Senegal, Futurs Medias, owned by the singer Youssou Ndour, gives lessons three times a day to all classes, including vocational education.

“The resumption of school… is no longer on the agenda,” says the General Association of Pupils and  Students of Ivory Coast (Ageeci). 

“The threat of a lost year is probably looming.” 

Home schooling assisted by television broadcasts

In neighbouring Burkina Faso, Burkinainfo private television broadcasts four times a day for students preparing to take qualifying exams. 

“We record the lessons, which we broadcast on television, basically the core subjects — mathematics, physics-chemistry, philosophy and French,” says the channel’s director, Ismael Ouedraogo. 

Experienced teachers volunteer to teach the classes, he said.

Formats vary across the continent, with an Ivorian start-up offering courses via text messages. Free at first, it does become a paid service later. 

Several private African institutes and universities are exploring distance learning via the internet. 

“We plan to finish the school year at the end of May,” said Burkina Faso’s Amed Moussa Diallo, chairman of the board of directors of the African Institute of Management, which has also set up online courses.

Pitfalls

Despite the optimism, distance learning faces several pitfalls, notably poor internet coverage in many of Africa’s rural areas, and the cost. Too often, students lack the technical means and the funds to follow the courses. 

“Most students do not have access to the internet, especially since many have been asked to return to their homes, often in remote locations,” says professor Henry Tumwiine of the Mountains of the Moon University in Fort Portal, Uganda. 

“In sub-Saharan Africa, 89 percent of learners do not have access to home computers and 82 percent do not have internet,” UNESCO said in a statement, noting a “worrying digital gap in distance learning”. 

“In addition, while mobile phones can allow learners to access information and connect with each other and their teachers, around 56 million learners live in places not served by mobile networks, including nearly half in sub-Saharan Africa,” UNESCO added. 

“I can’t afford a computer, so I’m missing online courses,” said Alexander Mubiru, a 29-year-old student at Makerere Public University in the Ugandan capital Kampala. “We’re going to wait for the university to reopen.”

Television, therefore, is far from a miracle cure. The lack of interactivity between teachers and students is a big minus. On top of that, the students cannot ask questions and the teachers have no way of testing the students’ understanding.

Many parents believe that the courses would be more valuable if they were coordinated with the school programme and allowed for teacher-student interaction as is possible with internet teaching. 

No TV, no electricity

“With home lessons, students must first get used to sitting and being at their computers. They must practise discipline,” said Makini Tchameni, director of the African American Academy in Burkina, which specialises in remote learning. 

The Ivorian association Ageeci questions the practicality of trying to get students to do 1,300 hours for the year and is also worried about the pupils who struggle to keep up with the lessons. 

“Will they be able to master distance learning?” it asks, “especially those in the poorer districts where there is sometimes no electricity, no television no radio or internet.” 

Students in Cameroon face chronic power outages.

“The city has been without electricity for a week,” said an official from Mozogo, a remote city in the far north of the country. 

“The children are distraught,” says Mozogo resident Gil Mahama, father of eight. 

“Not everyone has a television. We are worried because our children do not have the same opportunity to follow lessons on radio and TV.” 

Some are trying to make the most of the current arrangements. 

In Burkina Faso, high school student Khalil Nonguierma is delighted with being able to “keep in touch with the school” but he is worried about the “lack of interactivity with the teacher who just does a lecture or corrects homework.” 

“If we understand, it’s good,” he says. “But if we don’t understand, we can’t keep up.”

by Patrick FORT avec les bureaux africains for Agence France-Presse (AFP)

Source : The South African More   

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Healthy eyesight: Exercises to keep your peepers in top form

Your eyesight doesn't need to deteriorate with age. Do these exercises to help keep your eyes healthy.

Healthy eyesight: Exercises to keep your peepers in top form

Exercising your eyes can keep your eyesight stronger for longer.

Just like the rest of your body, your face and eyes have muscles. Because of overuse, your eye muscles may become weak and you may be unable to see as clearly. If you regularly exercise your eyes you can keep your eyes safe and healthy.

Exercises to improve your eyesight

Palming

Rub your palms vigorously until moist, and then gently place them over your eyelids. Let the palm warmth transfer to the head. You can feel the muscles of the eye relax as your eyes find comfort in the night. Persist until eyes completely absorb the heat from the palms. Repeat two to three times daily.

Blinking

Sit back on your chair or bed with open eyes. Blink rapidly 10 to 15 times. Close your eyes, and take 20 seconds to relax. Repeat five times.

Zooming

Another successful eye practice is to zoom in. As you might have inferred from the name, you are zooming in on an object to change your vision’s focus. Sit with your arm extended with your thumb up. Now, slowly bend your wrist, and bring your hand closer to your head, until you thumb is in focus.

Shifting your eyesight

Shifting is about shifting the eyeballs or turning them from one direction to another. Look to the right corner, then slowly turn your attention in the opposite direction. With the spurt of blood pumped in from the move, the tiny eye muscles get more active and healthy.

Incorporating certain foods into your diet

Carrot eating is good for your vision. Carrots are rich in vitamin A, an essential vision nutrient. Vitamin A is not the only vitamin that promotes healthy eye function, however. Make sure your diet contains foods that are rich in vitamin C, vitamin E, copper and zinc.

Resting your eyes

It’s good to close your eyes just for a few minutes. If you’re hard at work, you can do this once an hour, or several times. So if your work includes sitting in front of a computer or reading it can be soothing to close your eyes. This exercise, as basic as it sounds, will protect the eyes from over-exertion or fatigue.

This content has been created as part of our freelancer relief programme. We are supporting journalists and freelance writers impacted by the economic slowdown caused by #lockdownlife.

If you are a freelancer looking to contribute to The South African, read more here.

Source : The South African More   

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