New reality for teachers
11 May 2020 | Education
Enfriede Stephanus; Education director; “… many schools were proactive in kick-starting the e-learning process…”
During the daily update at the Covid-19 Communication Centre in the capital, Erongo regional director of education Enfriede Stephanus shed some light on the current status of e-learning in the Erongo region.
Stephanus said that the region is home to 78 schools, including private schools. “About 20% of these schools are in rural areas, mainly in the Omaruru circuit. And they are struggling with the new mode of teaching – e-learning. When it was announced that teachers must report to school, although not physically, many schools were proactive in kick-starting the e-learning process. From a regional perspective, teachers were willing and able to develop material for learners to start the e-learning process. Some schools already had established communication channels with parents before Covid-19 and they just eased into the next phase of providing material to the learners.”
Still, she said that the process of sharing information with learners and their parents is an ongoing process.
“One of the major challenges is that not many learners have access to the internet to access materials online. However, we also provide hard copies of the material. Through our communication with parents, they indicate to us who needs hard copies and who can access materials online and we work from there.”
She explained that no learners come to school to collect material. “We communicate strictly with the parents. Each school has scheduled pick up and drop off times for material. In line with regulations, only a certain number of parents are allowed into the school building, keeping in mind social distancing, wearing masks and sanitizing hands. Some teachers and principals go the extra mile by dropping off material to learners in remote areas or informal locations.”
Stephanus said that the material is based on the school curriculum. “The true reflection, if it’s the learners work and not that of the parent, can only be determined upon the return of worksheets and homework. Teachers know their learners, so they should be able to tell if the learner or the parent did the work. Parents just need to guide their children and assist where needed. It is up to the learners to explore and seek answers. It is not the parent’s job.”
One of the challenges faced by teachers and schools in the Erongo region is that not all parents can be reached through regular communication channels.
“To help mitigate this, we are in contact will all regional and local authority councillors and traditional leaders, and we use channels such as the radio to disseminate information. Some learners live with grandparents who are illiterate. Thus we call on all members of the community to assist in this regard.
“It has also come to our attention that some teachers are not computer literate. But we are looking into programs to train them. Another challenge is the negative attitude of some teachers and parents. Since Covid-19 is a new illness, people are afraid of the unknown, which is understandable. Also, misinformation is a huge challenge, since wrong information is usually shared on various platforms. However, with my visits to the schools in the region, I make sure to convey the correct information.”
Stephanus said that school boards are an important stakeholder in education. “School boards are there to safe guard the interests of the school. Thus it is expected of them to assist the school with items like sanitizer, face masks for teachers and for the printing of material. Regular meetings take place with the various circuit inspectors as well."
Regarding the attitude of teachers towards this new mode of learning, Stephanus says that there are both positive and negative reactions. “Although this is uncharted territory, many teachers have stepped up to develop and distribute material to learners. This morning I visited a school where the principal met with the cleaners explaining the role they should play in this time.
“I always say teaching is a calling. If you are not willing to go the extra mile, then you are in the wrong place. We move with who wants to work and the rest will simply have to catch up. Now is the time for all stakeholders, parents, learners and teachers to take hands and work together.”
She advised principals and teachers to make use of various mediums to reach their learners. “We have been in constant communication, not only about the challenges, but also on the way forward. Schools have already started cleaning and sanitizing their classrooms and surrounding areas. Teachers are at schools to provide material and to plan for when the learners come back, including setting up extra classes or afternoon classes.”