It’s been roughly a month since schoolsand all academic institutions in Rwanda closed doors due to COVID-19. Rwanda Education Board (REB) introduced online programs and media broadcasts of lessons for students to catch up at home while patiently waiting for schools to reopen.

However, in this period that learners are away from school, how can they stay on track so that they don’t fall back on their studies?

“I am trying to study at home but it’s not easy for me. I used to revise in groups with my mates” says Uturushimbabazi Theoneste, a student at Kageyo TVET School in Gicumbi district. Uturushimbabazi studies in the evening, after helping his parents with household chores during the day. One of the challenges he faces with the online courses, is not being able to afford internet data and living in the countryside (Kamonyi/Kabuga) making the situation harder. The other challenge, as he says “is not having anyone’s guidance while doing exercises.” He appreciates his school for initiating whatsapp groups and suggests that REB should seek ways of providing them with the internet.

Aime Cadeau Souvenir is another Senior 5 student and she says that her school also initiated the whatsapp groups where brighter students help their classmates with correction of exercises. She revises at least for 2 to 3 hours a day and she criticizes parents who won’t give students some free time to study. She also criticizes students who defy guidelines set to fight against coronavirus, and study in groups, where they increase their risks of infecting each other just in case one of them is exposed to Coronavirus.

While students have their own point of view regarding the situation, teachers also are struggling to know what they should do.
UwifashijeFroduard is a teacher. DURING THE Interview with The Express News, he suggests that REB should follow up the program because teachers don’t even know how they should proceed with lessons during this lockdown period.“REB should get in contact with schools, parents and other partners in education to monitor the progress of the online courses program and evaluate its effectiveness.” Says Frodouard.

This gap between the students and their teachers is mainly due to the lack of balance when it comes to internet accessibility or even devices that students may need to connect themselves, as suggested by Frodouard.

Parental guidance remains a gap

Claudette Nyiramana is a mother to 3 high school students and she says that the online program itself is a perfect idea, but won’t work with her 3 children. “The program is good, but it’s helping them because they are very distracted, there is no motivation, they are just watching movies.” Asked why she won’t guide them to respect the studying schedule, she says that she is busy with own duties. “I wish I would be available for them but I have no time. That’s why we send them to boarding schools where they have people who are just there for them.”Nyiramana noted.

She also says she is worried about parents who can’t afford to buy internet for their children at home.
“Mine are just too distracted but they read sometimes. I buy them a 5000 Rwf internet per week and the 3 of them share it. But what about parents who can’t afford it?”

Jean Pierre Musemakweli is also a parent with 2 students in 12 year-basic education who are in senior 2 and 3. He says that he doesn’t even know that there is an online program to study at home. “These days everyone is concerned about food. I am struggling to provide food for them. I didn’t even know that courses are ongoing. Authorities should help the poor like us so that our children can study too. I have this broken phone, and it has no internet.” He claims.

Dr Irene Ndayambaje, the Director General of REB said that the program is in line with the existing E-Learning platform that was still in the making. “We extended its capacity, a lot of students, as many as 60,000 per day are viewing the website and we updated the content for students to have enough courses to revise on the platform.” He added that the platform helpsstudents revise what they already studied in the first term as well as catching up with the upcoming lessons.

The platform also makes easier to understand with video demonstrations of lessons.
REB also says that the platform has teachers available for more explanations in case students don’t understand. As far as internet access is concerned, it has worked with telecommunication companies and the e- learning program can be accessed without internet.

REB also worked with the media and produced edutainment in order to help students who can’t access smartphones or other browsing devices.

For courses that are not easy to teach on the radio, like Chemistry and Physics, REB thought about Television program. The program is expected to ease the understanding about online courses even after COVID-19.

The Express News

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