In an exclusive conversation with Mr. Matthew Nyaaba, one of Ghana's young educationists and a tutor in Gambaga College of Education, Gambaga, N/E, as Colleges of Education intend to resume on 27th April, 2020 in a Virtual Education session, this is what he has to say.
Mr. Nyaaba in his view, appreciated leaders for the effort for such a bold initiative.
He said, 'this I know is a bold initiative taken by the Principals and I know they are quite aware of the challenges to that effect.
"However, I don't see it to be feasible and hence will not be effective", he added.
According to Mr. Nyaaba, Ghana can't implement a full Virtual Education in this time of COVID-19 but we can adapt a partial virtual education.
He explained Virtual Education as a teaching and learning process based on the principles of active pedagogy (that's the student must take the responsibility of frequent and effective participation), with the characteristics of distance education (during all classes, or most of them, the students and the teacher will not meet personally, although this could happen in a virtual space). For example, both tutors and students can chat with each other in real-time using internet services, but also by e-mail or participate in e-groups such as WhatsApp, Google Classroom that don't require that both are on-line at the same time.
Candidly, I don't think this will help the college students and the quality education we are yearning for. Though this is a new development emerging from our current situation but if we are looking for solutions then we can't adopt a solution that may affect us largely (maybe to just do something to represent something as we can term it)
He further suggested that students report to school and get access to campus network and other resources whiles they stay safe in their respective halls/hostels and observe the preventive measures...
He added, "we have already started this virtual education and I can confidently say, it averagely exposes students to or covers less than 40% of the learning experiences, what happens to the 60%?"
"Even with that, we can averagely get less than 30% of the students participating, what happens to the 70% of students?"
This problem is due to the common challenges that we are all aware of....ranging from poor network, lack of technological devices, home distractions, time inconsistency, etc.
Unlike other developed countries, e-learning in Ghana is still at its infancy stage and we have a long way to go.
He however, recommended that students can report back to school when the necessary measures are taken if we really want quality education.
According to Mr. Nyaaba this will help students to get ample time (readiness) for online learning even if it is set as part of the preventive measures and also get access to other educational resources such as WiFi and books. This is what he termed as partial virtual education.
Not that students may not take this virtual education serious but some of the challenges can compel some of the students to loose interest in it. Some may have genuine reasons for not being active and others can hide under these challenges and may not be active too and there is nothing we can do about it.
My strongest recommendation is that we should manage to get the students back on campus and perhaps lock the schools down and ensure at least little supervision on students' studies and their safety.
This is possible, because, unlike the universities, the colleges of education have a little control over students movements and can ensure that.
When he was asked how students can be detected of being positive or not before they get back to school.
He suggested a mass testing for all students upon their arrival in the schools.
He added, "I don't know much about the health sector and the possibility of a timely mass testing of all colleges of education students but I think it is possible.
Since we were able to do it during the period of mandatory quarantine for travellers who arrived 21-22 March 2020 as per the President’s directive, we can equally do it with the students...
The mass testing can be done upon students arrival on campus and periodically till the total end of this pandemic whiles they are engaged in their studies.
The government can employ same strategy by acquiring more testing kits and employing more hands for this exercise too.
Now, with the social issue on students' number per room in their halls/hostels.
He explained that it is manageable, once they are tested negative, they can stay together and be ensuring the preventive measures (sanitizing, hand washing, etc).
He further stated that as we are in our homes, some of us are staying in compound houses with large families yet we are staying safe based on the preventive measures so there is no much difference from this and students staying safe in schools.
Instead of the stay home stay safe agenda, it could stay in school stay safe agenda.
The success of 'stay in school stay safe agenda' may compel other countries with similar situations to learn from us.
"We can regulate students number during dining and other gatherings. This I think would even be easier since they are students and understand the implications".
Mr. Nyaaba finally opined that it would be better we patiently wait and totally battle off the CONVID '19 pandemic before resuming academic activities.