E-learning and its tragedies virtual learning

Robin Muchetu

Senior Reporter

THE introduction of a nationwide lockdown on March 30, 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19 halted almost everything save for a few critical service providers in Zimbabwe.

The lockdown also resulted in the closure of learning institutions that include primary, secondary and tertiary forcing students to go on an indefinite holiday.

With the lockdown still in place, children who would ordinarily be in school are still at home with parents trying everything to ensure their kids get some form of learning.

In response, several schools have introduced online learning, which is a fairly new concept for many learners. It has come with its own challenges chief among them expenses that parents incur in buying data.

Mrs Juliana Magadu is one such parent who has mixed feelings over online learning.

Her son is still in Early Childhood Development (ECD).

“For my son, the teacher does lessons via zoom (the whole school does that) and I monitor and help him throughout the lesson. It’s an advantage because they are learning but as for my son’s age ECD-A at times I feel it doesn’t work. He does not take it seriously. At times, he makes funny faces when he sees himself on the laptop or starts greeting his friends. It’s quite a mission especially if you are coming from work. Feels like I have two jobs,” she said.

She feels that her son together with his age mates are still too young to be taught via online platforms and need the real classroom set up to take part in learning.

Mrs Magadu took this writer through what the zoom lessons are done and how they can be improved.

“We started on May 18. Lessons normally start at 5:30pm to 6:20 pm.

The teacher will be teaching as if in class and children will be participating also.

Maybe for some younger disciplined ones it’s working.

“For it to be effective on my side I think besides having those interactive lessons there should be videos where the teacher records himself/herself teaching so we can play for the children so that it sinks in,” she said.

“Its better coming from a professional than from a parent. Teaching the child to hold a pencil the correct way and shape letters and words correctly is quite a struggle.”

According to Mrs Magadu, it is unfortunate their young ones cannot go to school even if they were to practice social distancing.

It would also mean no playing too at school during break time, which affects the development of their psychomotor skills as play is an essential part of learning for the ECD grades.

She adds that it a mammoth task to explain to very young children exactly why the child has wear a mask for the hours they are at school, in the event that they do go back to school soon.

For a working parent, she adds, online learning was a problem.

“We mostly depend on teachers to teach our children since we have less time to spare. Maybe eventually when they get used, it will work,” she said.

Another parent Mrs Adeline Muronzi whose daughter is in Form Two said online learning was a positive move.

However, she said, monitoring was essential.

“My daughter starts lessons at 9am to 4pm punctuated by small stretch breaks, so basically she’s stuck in a corner at home for that period. The teacher delivers lessons and they get homework too.

“Another who is not doing formal education is taking up a self- teaching computer graphics and ICT course. We got software installed to her computer that allows the child to self-teach a basic computer course,” she explained.

Mrs Muronzi feels online learning has brought its own challenges as not all students participate.

“Some parents said they could not afford to have the online classes for their children as they simply cannot afford data. This is a major setback as the child is missing out on what the rest of her class is doing. The less fortunate are at a great disadvantage,” she lamented.

Other parents said they had challenges with class teachers who renegaded on online classes after a few lessons were conducted.

“We have children in grade seven and the class teacher just stopped doing the lessons without explanation. This affects the child in that they are supposed to sit for an examination at the end of the year and the teacher is not helping at all. This idleness will affect their performance,” said the parent.

Most parents concurred that online learning was a noble idea. However, they felt the children would miss out on practical subjects as they cannot be conducted outside a classroom set up.

They said there were many teething problems that needed to be solved in order to deliver effective online learning

Data is mentioned as a critical part of e-learning and it costs an arm and a leg for many parents and guardians.

Being online also means a child has access to other undesirable sites where they can access pornographic materials which is detrimental in their lives or access to drug and human trafficking syndicates which can get them in to trouble with the law.

Parents, particularly working ones expressed worry that they cannot supervise their children when they are online.

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