COVID 19 and its consequences on students and education by Rashida Eyram Gyimah

Rashida Eyram Gyimah

COVID-19 the deadly global pandemic that caught the world unprepared, and put us on hold for some time. It’s no news that this pandemic continues to affect lives. Aside the many lives COVID 19 has taken, it has also affected businesses, travel plans, education and other sectors of the global economy.

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As a university student, the news of schools closing down was quite a relief for me because we were in the middle of the semester, the peak of all university activities, from assignments and presentations to mid semester examinations. A little break was a relief from all the stress. Little did we know we were going to be at home for eternity.

Here in Ghana, students have been home for about eight months and counting. These eight months have been challenging for teachers and students, who have had to adapt to unconventional ways of teaching and learning. Online learning or electronic learning (e-learning) has become the new normal. Teachers and students have had to switch from physical classroom learning to having virtual classes online with several platforms like zoom, google meet, the use of audio slides and other specially designed platforms for virtual learning. This switch did not come without challenges. Teachers, parents and students have felt the impact of this switch.

Parents, complained about how expensive data packages were, having to buy data bundles every week for their wards to be able to participate in these virtual classes. Another challenge was how hard it was to supervise their wards during classes especially for parents of the pre-school and basic school children.  For working class parents without nannies, they have had to either take leaves from work or leave their kids under the supervision of neighbours who may or may not supervise effectively and may even expose the children to all forms of abuse. Some Parents also complained about the fees they had to pay for these classes being too high, considering the fact that part of the work was being done at home. Hence several appeals and negotiations were done to receive school fee waivers. Some of these pleas fell on deaf ears and others were kindly considered. No matter which category a parent fell into, it was still clear that every parent felt the toll this pandemic has taken on education.

On the other side of the scale, teachers have also had to adopt creative ways of effectively presenting their lessons to their students. It has taken some sacrifice and extra work to merge audio and visual learning to enhance understanding. With all of this extra work being put in, one would think that these teachers deserve a pay raise, but unfortunately for us in Ghana, the story is different. Some private school teachers have lamented over the non-payment of their salaries since schools closed down and have called on the government to assist them. Luckily for government school teachers, they are being paid.

The complaints of tertiary students were of high data charges, the inability to actively participate in class sessions, network challenges and unrealistic exam deadlines. As a tertiary student, I share in these complaints and have had to spend extra money on data. I have had to study at home in inconvenient environments and also write exams.

 In response to some of these complaints, some school managements subsidized school fees in their schools and also collaborated with some telecommunications networks to provide cheap data packages and free access to some educational sites of which not all students benefited.

A great concern to me however, is the situation of students that live in deprived communities and homes. Certainly, they don’t have access to all of these resources. Some parents and students do not have phones or computers and even internet to be able to take part in these virtual learning activities. It brings to mind the question of whether Ghana is ready to start the digital/virtual education discussion. This pandemic has exposed the several loopholes in our systems as a country and what should be done about it.

I must however applaud the government and the several media houses that have created learning platforms on their TV and radio channels. It is such an impressive thing to see that your child can watch TV at home and get educated at the same time. I really hope it doesn’t end after the pandemic but rather continues in the education of students from home.

In conclusion, COVID 19 has been a tester of our systems. As a country, all our systems have felt the impact of this pandemic. As humans, our health has certainly been challenged; our mental health especially but hey, if you are reading this, it means you are alive and if that is not something to be grateful for, then I don’t know what is. We have all learnt our lessons and will continue to strive for excellence as a country and as individuals. So, help us God.

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