This blog post is a cross-post from EdTech Hub‘s blog https://edtechhub.org/2020/09/17/africas-covid-19-opportunity/ (Creative Commons Attribution 4.0). The blog post was written on the 17th of September 2020.
Educators in Africa are optimistic about the opportunities that Covid-19 brings for reform and innovation in education.
That’s the headline from a survey eLearning Africa recently conducted, in which 1,600 education and technology professionals from 52 countries in Africa were asked for their thoughts on the longer-term effects of the pandemic.
Despite what it’s doing to societies and economies around the world, half of the people who responded to the survey thought the pandemic presented a “significant” or “very significant” opportunity. A large majority – 85% – thought that use of technology in education would become more widespread because of Covid-19.
“Creativity, new ideas, new opportunities”
The survey gave respondents a chance to say how they feel. We invited them to comment on the crisis and their thoughts about the future. Their words were enlightening.
Joice has worked in the sector for over 20 years and believes that educational technology plays “a fundamental role in society.” In her survey response, she said:
“We have the opportunity in the face of the pandemic to improve the uses and access to technologies aimed at learning, at a time when students and teachers can become protagonists of a new model of education.”
In Burkina Faso, teacher Isso said: “As the pandemic becomes a worldwide problem with no good solution, everybody in the world becomes involved in seeking solutions.”
Isso added: “That will lead to creativity, new ideas and new opportunities.”
Many respondents expressed similar thoughts.
Corporate planner Sisu, from Zimbabwe, said: “This is the opportunity for a long-term evolution of the education system.”
Josie, a marketing director in Ghana, said: “This pandemic has forced us to think outside the box and implement plans and strategies to help our students achieve the same quality education as was provided face to face. It has provided an opportunity to discover new forms of learning and training.”
And Chukwuemeka, an ICT specialist in Nigeria, said: “One of the main reasons why we struggle during this trying period is that there has been slow penetration of technology in almost all industries. Online education is the future and the earlier the government starts looking at the huge opportunities here, the better off the country will be.”
Not all optimism, all the time
Despite the general sense of optimism, many people still have concerns about specifics. The survey revealed:
- considerable nervousness about a growing digital divide and a rise in inequalities among learners because of uneven access to technology
- learners in rural communities are considered most likely to be disadvantaged as a result of a lack of access to technology
- the lack of available and affordable connectivity was the biggest obstacle preventing the development of more technology-assisted learning
We’ll leave the last word to Carter, a project manager in Liberia: “The government needs to build the infrastructure and make it affordable to everyone, particularly the Internet. Once urban and rural communities can have access to an affordable and reliable high speed internet, schools and students alike can easily adopt distance learning technologies, platforms, and systems.”