Parents to pay for kids’ online education

By Maria Hamutenya

THE Ministry of Education this week stuck to its decision to re-open all schools from 20 April and called on teachers to work out ways to teach from a remote distance. Education executive director Sanet Steenkamp on Monday clarified that although all schools are expected to open on that date, learners will not resume classes on the specific day.

The school holiday, which was brought forward after Namibia recorded its first case of Covid-19, started on 16 March and is set to end the on 17 April, as per the regulations of the state of emergency.

“The teachers and learners were actually on holiday and it will not be extended, learning and teaching has to continue amid the virus outbreak of which Namibia now has 16 cases,” she said.

The ministry is engaging all stakeholders to work out ways to create a good learning and teaching environment without compromising the health of teachers or learners. Steenkamp further suggested the use of social media platforms, like WhatsApp groups, as a way of arranging classroom communication between teachers and learners.

She noted though that the ministry is well aware that not all parents are able to afford the necessary gadgets for their children to be able to access online material.

Confidente spoke to some parents in Windhoek’s informal settlements to gather their views on the challenges of online education, as proposed.

Melania Shihepo from Otjomuise’s 8ste Laan informal settlement said she cannot afford to buy all her three children digital devices to be able to keep up with the online tutorials.

“My oldest daughter who is in university is at least able to take care of getting her own data to help with her online classes but I cannot afford to do that for two of my other sons, who are still in high school, and one in primary school. I am not employed. I have my own business making clothes but it does not make enough to [even] take care of     my family,” Shihepo said.

Another parent, Loide Amboondo felt that it is a good idea to resume classes online because at least children will be able to continue their studies but it is going to be costly for parents.

“The government should really try to meet us halfway because most of us work as domestic workers and putting food on the table of my family is already hard. As a parent I can afford the data, but I will not be able to afford the gadgets needed for that,” Amboondo stressed.

Teachers are also exploring different ways to prepare themselves to engage with learners, although there are concerns about how pupils in rural areas will be affected by the move and questions hang over how exactly they are going to learn without access to internet. There have been some suggestions that TV and radio channels could be set aside for lessons to be broadcast.

Tuwilika Antoninu, teacher at Paulus Hamutenya Primary School in Ohangwena region said e-learning might not work for everyone, especially pupils in the rural areas who have no electricity or good internet connections.

“I’m not saying children should repeat [the year in school] but you find some homes in the village that have plus minus seven children and none of them have smart phones or don’t even know how to operate them. How will learning take place there? The network at the village is also not good and so children will really miss out on a lot of things and this should really be improved,” Andoninu pointed out.

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