The country lacks an ‘ICT in education’ policy which could help guide learning during such times. But there are other challenges: poorly developed ICT infrastructure, limited digital literacy, negative attitude towards ICT etc. Uganda’s 15 million learners constituting about 40% of the country’s total population were sent home in March and have since not had any serious education. The country recorded 1000+ Covid-19 infections and 1 death by July. Authorities insist the pandemic remains a serious threat and to date it is unclear whether schools will reopen this year.
Introducing a New Normal
The challenges presented by the coronavirus disease call for a new way of delivering education. Enabel responded by supporting Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports to develop and implement a distance learning strategy called the “Sandbox”.
It is being piloted in the country’s 5 National Teachers Colleges in order to learn lessons for Uganda’s entire education sector. The sandbox steps away from traditional teaching methods and embraces the use of technology.
The innovation offers a testing environment for education technology (EdTech), making full use of the potential of teachers to respond to the current education crisis by introducing various ICT tools and practices that facilitate and enhance distance learning during and post Covid-19.
'The challenges presented by the Covid-19 virus call for a new way of delivering education. Enabel responded by supporting Uganda’s Ministry of Education and Sports in developing and implementing a distance learning strategy called the Sandbox.'
What is the sandbox exactly?
The strategy pays specific attention to communication between school management, staff and students. Channels such as Short Messaging Service (SMS) and video conferencing are therefore in place to guarantee interaction within the school community.
For the sandbox hackathons are critical to involve lecturers and inspire creativity. The first virtual hackathon was a success. 70 lecturers participated; each pitching a variety of tools for developing and delivering lessons.
Bolla Norbert is a music lecturer and one of the winners of the hackathon. His use of WhatsApp to deliver learning won him the award. What initially started as a way to keep in touch with students, Bolla says, turned into an effective lesson delivery tool. To date, 29 students out of a class of 38 are taught every day at 3:00pm.
Additionally, a helpdesk of Champion lecturers was created to support the use of ICT. Enabel supports the helpdesk members to organise weekly Community of Practice (CoP) sessions, which are hosted digitally. During these sessions, lecturers learn how to use digital tools to deliver lessons, e.g. screen-casting, podcasting, video conferencing, e-books or padlets. Attendance has grown from 82 to 160 within two months.
Enabel has supported Uganda’s education sector for about 20 years with focus on teacher training and vocational education.