MoBSE Mitigates Loss Of Contact Hours In Schools ‘Lock-down’ Due to COVID–19

EYEAFRICA TV: Banjul, The Gambia: The Ministry of Basic and Secondary Education (MoBSE) has placed a step on the pedal of technology through which it intends to offer remedial classes for students across the country after schools were shut over the Coronavirus pandemic.

Government of the Gambia ordered the closure of schools and universities following confirmation of first case of COVID –19 in the country with neighbouring Senegal counting more than a dozen cases.

The move posed an emergency break on the conventional coverage of the learning curriculum in the middle of the academic season.

Speaking during a panel discussion on Eye Africa TV on Friday, Permanent Secretary Ebrima Sisawo described the 21-day period for which schools are being closed as eight percent of the eight hundred and eighty minimum hours designed for teaching and learning for the entire year.

“We discussed it at the management level together with our stakeholders, looking at various mechanisms in minimising the loss in contact hours for students. We then relied on the report that 92 percent of households in the Gambia have telephones which could also be translated to the number of television, and radio sets through which we can channel lessons to reach out to students right in their homes.”

The distance learning platforms adopted by the ministry will feature broadcast of lesson in audio-visual packages through radios and televisions in two slots per day starting Monday 24th March.

In a press release in launch of the programmes, the ministry’s communication unit identified the hours of 10 am to 12 pm for broadcast of the first teaching period, while the second period will be broadcast between the hours of 4pm and 6pm every day.

The Gambia Teachers Union (GTU) refers to the scenario of ‘education in emergency’ that provoked demand to mitigate the impact of the unforeseen break.
“In terms of strategy, messages are developed to find students at their safety zones and the next aspect concerns relevance and timely receipt of the information”, says Essa Sowe, Deputy Secretary General of the Gambia Teachers Union.

According to the 2016 – 2030 Education Sector Policy, School curriculum would be digitised to facilitate access to learning materials through devices such as tablets, computers and mobile phones.

It goes further to promote a gradual paradigm shift from teacher-centred and textbook based teaching towards interactive learner-centred approach that will include digitalizing teaching and learning materials across all levels and types.

But Permanent Secretary Ebrima Sisawo argued that the ministry could no longer wait for the completion of all the infrastructural installation around what is to become the ‘Gambia Education Television’ and the provision of participatory tools to all students in the country.

“We’ve come into agreement with the National broadcaster together with all major media platforms in the country to take part in the broadcast of these lessons on daily basis.”

This move according to Mr Sisawo will eventually draw the attainment of his ministry’s agenda in the use of Information Communication Technology in education and concept of distance learning closer.

To further the plan, he said European Union has committed to solarise about one thousand schools across the country, while Ministry’s latest partners, MRC Holland Foundation is concerned about internet connectivity of the learning centres.

As per MoBSE’s latest database, the virtual teaching arrangement is intended for students in over eight hundred Lower Basic Schools in all regions. Students in one hundred and eighty-nine Upper Basic Schools and learners in one hundred and ninety-two Senior Secondary Schools are target for the online teaching.

The subjects to be covered in the programme include English Language, Mathematics, Science, Biology, Physics, and Chemistry.

The ministry notes that the initiative being an emergency response may not be 100 percent successful but would at least serve a quarter in mitigating the loss in curriculum coverage.

written by Ebrima Bah

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