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03.11.2021 Feature Article

Bawumia Speaks! An 'amofanalysis' of Digitalization in the Education Sector

Bawumia Speaks! An 'amofanalysis' of Digitalization in the Education Sector
03.11.2021 LISTEN

Introduction

Dr. Mahamadu Bawumia has indeed spoken! At Ashesi University, a university that epitomizes digitalization, his lecture was captioned "Transforming an Economy through Digitalization: The Ghana Story" where he highlighted the relentless effort by the government to digitalize the country because according to the Economic Times, "the world's most valuable resource is no more oil but data".

The introduction of Ghana cards for Ghanaians, mobile money interoperability, the use of Zipline's drone services in medical delivery and the digitalization of health/medical records networked across all hospitals are key examples of capitalisation strides made by the government.

Analyzing Digitalization in the Education Sector

Wifi for SHSs, Colleges of Education and Education Offices

In the education sector, Dr. Bawumua touted the provision of free wifi for 710 Senior High Schools, 48 Colleges of Education and 216 District Education Offices to enhance free internet connectivity for teaching, learning and administrative purposes.

The challenge lies with the SHSs where students are unable to access the free wifi with their own devices because till now, the century-long rule forbidding the use of mobile phones and laptops by SHS students is still in full force. The ICT laboratories are usually only available to students during ICT lessons, restricting their access for research purposes. Even if the ICT labs are open all day including weekends, the number of computers cannot match the current laptop to student ratio at 1: 25.

One teacher, one laptop

The Vice President also did emphasize that 350,000 laptops have been supplied to all teachers teaching from the KG to SHS level and that " writing of lesson notes into notebooks is over because the curriculum materials have been preloaded onto the laptops".

It must be stated that since the launch of the 1 teacher 1 laptop project two months ago on 3rd September 2021, no teacher from Basic schools has taken delivery of his/hers. More than half of SHS teachers are also yet to receive theirs and one can only wonder how long it must take for the distribution of these laptops to all teachers with no clear distribution timelines from the Ghana Education Service and/or the Teacher unions.

Again, as unequivocally confirmed by the Vice President in his lecture, lesson notes would no longer be written by teachers in notebooks because they have been preloaded onto the laptops. It would be great for Headteachers, School Improvement Support Officers(SISO) and Directors of Education to compromise with the above which has been a point of conflict as some heads, SISOs and Directors do reject soft copy lesson notes and order teachers to write the manually, moving the education sector a century behind the initialization era.

Government's plan of distributing tablets for SHS students

According to Dr. Bawumia, the government is planning to distribute tablets to all SHS students to ease the pressure of the cost of purchasing textbooks which would also be preloaded onto the tablets. The government should however put safety/tracking mechanisms in place to prevent students from losing everything should they misplace their tablets.

Recommendations

Usage of digitalization to replace the paperwork in Education Offices

Conspicuously missing from the lecture is the initialization at various Metro/Municipal/District Education Offices. With the installation of free wifi at the Education Offices, it would be prudent to network District offices to Regional and GES Headquarters. Hard copy letters from teachers to the education offices should be replaced with emails to reduce the loss of instructional hours of teachers tracking the offices to submit/take letters. This will also reduce physical contact between teachers and superiors which will subsequently reduce the propensity for corruption.

Digitalization as a tool to check absenteeism at workplaces

Digitalization can also play a key role in checking the attendance of teachers and all public sector workers at large. The government should consider the use of biometric devices for clocking in/out at all workplaces where fingerprints of workers would be taken upon arrival to work and before departure. This can successfully replace the manual attendance books which are largely susceptible to dishonesty. In the JHS and SHS where subject teaching is practised, the fingerprints of teachers can be taken after a teacher has completed his/her lesson. This device should be linked to the Controller and Accountant General's server to form a basis for monthly payment of workers.

Digitalization to check examination malpractice

The government can partner the West African Examination Council (WAEC) to install CCTV cameras at examination halls to check the perennial canker of examination malpractice.

Digitalize Basic Schools

Basic schools in Ghana seem to have been sidelined in the government's initialization agenda. Most basic schools are still operating under trees and in dilapidated structures and most communities within which some basic schools are located have serious network reception challenges. It is therefore recommended that the government pursues a massive digitally friendly school infrastructural boost and extend network reception to every nook and grant where basic schools are located. Basic schools should also get their share of the free wifi for teaching and learning purposes.

Expedite the distribution of teachers' laptops

The government and the GES should as a matter of urgency expedite the distribution of teachers' laptops for research purposes.

Conclusion

Inasmuch as digitalization is being introduced in our educational sector, it seems to be massive at the Senior High School level at the expense of basic schools which has digital literacy as one of it's pillars in their Standards-Based Curriculum. More need to be done in order to reap the good products of education that we so desire.

By Joseph Amofah

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