COVID-19: Why Rwanda should embrace blended learning

0
64

Students are advised to make use of the education modules available online. / Net photo.

Since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Rwanda, the government tightened measures it deemed adequate to mitigate the risks of transmission of the virus. Among others, a decision that all schools and higher education institutions (both public and private) would close for an initial two-week period starting Monday, March 16, 2020.

The health ministry has announced this is likely to be extended due to the continual increase in the number of patients.

With more than 400 million students disrupted due to the spread of COVID-19, Rwandans included, we are experiencing a watershed moment for education systems around the world.

It tragically illustrates the need for educational institutions to build a technological backbone and digital competency to weather this crisis, and to enter a new era of teaching and learning in a digital world.

Therefore, the government’s education bodies realized that if nothing was done for students to continue learning in a formal way while at home, we can expect the fact that this global pandemic will shake the education system.

“We are instructing all the lecturers to upload all the modules online, so that they are made accessible to every student,” Dr Charles Muligande, University of Rwanda’s Deputy Vice Chancellor in charge of institutional capacity, tells Education.

The same case applies to primary and secondary schools, where students are urged to use REB’s learning platform, which is elearning.reb.rw.

DR Ndayambaje Irenee, Director General of Rwanda Education Board, tells Education that since the closure of schools due to COVID-19, the number of people visiting the platform has multiplied three times.

However, though these measures have been put in place, it is necessary to assess whether students and teachers are prepared to use this online system, and if this mode can be adopted as credible for education in Rwanda.

To students

Audrine Iradukunda, an assistant lecturer in Kigali-based Southern New Hampshire University (which uses blended learning mode), says that this is a good initiative that is in drive with the competency-based curriculum.

“As students are in this unexpected break, blended learning shall help them to embrace more tech-skills practices as long as they engage with a laptop in most of their activities”, she says, adding that those tech-skills are crucial to Rwandan students in this era of technology.

Egide Abimana, an education consultant with six years’ experience of coaching students via Google classes, narrates how he has seen blended learning manufacturing a weak student into a well-rounded individual with a good sense of what education means.

“Whenever you know you are responsible for yourself, you become mentally mature and committed. In face-to-face teaching, you just sit and wait for a lecturer to feed you, cram what he fed and do the exam,” he says, adding that in blended learning, you make your own research which allows you to be more proactive.

To teachers (facilitators)

According to, Tharcisse Maniragaba, a senior physics facilitator at Byimana School of Sciences, blended learning removes most of the excuses and barriers that students face in their academic life.

“Blended learning removes the excuses of absences due to weather conditions or sicknesses and other obstacles. This is true because all classes are online and a student can access them any time,” Maniragaba saysm stipulating that nothing can stop you, it is about self-pace.

Challenges

However, in this academic journey, several challenges are still down the road if blended learning is to be pursued: Poor internet connection, lack of enough laptops and small percentage of 52.8% who have access to electricity means.

Dr Irénée Ndayambaje says that they are aware of the challenges and are going to find a way to stream those courses on radios and TV to be able to reach all the students. 

Dr Charles Muligande says that they are going to negotiate with telecommunication companies to lower the prices for UR students using the e-learning platform, and says that there should be no worry for students who could not access the internet because the courses will resume from where they stopped before the quarantine.

“For students engaging with online materials, it is just a way to keep track of their studies, but once the students are back, they shall be starting afresh”, he told Education.

Experts also say that this blended learning is more applicable in non-calculation courses for higher learning students. If used for lower level students, parents’ supervision is obligatory.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here