Online Learning draws a wedge between teachers and learners

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By Nicole Tau

In Lesotho, learners are among the hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic as the country goes into the second phase of lockdown prompting need for online learning amid the digital divide.

On July 19, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro announced that the country would be going into lockdown to arrest the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Currently, Lesotho has recorded 359 COVID-19 positive cases, 6 deaths, and 69 recoveries from the virus.

Majoro announced that schools will remain closed thereby increasing need for online learning for learners to continue their studies.

Majoro’s lockdown closed schools after they had been fumigated and parents paid school fees for learners to return to school and only for them to be closed yet again after a couple of weeks opening.

A principal of New Millennium English Medium High School, Maliau Lucia Rankae admits that while online learning is not a new concept, it is an unprecedented situation that they were not prepared for.

Moreover, Rankae points out that the one main challenge they have been facing is in reaching students in faraway places that do not have electricity.

“We were advised to utilize WhatsApp platform for teaching as the most easiest and affordable teaching methodology, following complaints about data from parents and teachers.

“However, some students in rural places are still being left behind due to their electricity struggles,” Rankae said.

New Millennium is not the only private school that has employed WhatsApp as its main digital teaching platform, with Tiny Tots Primary School students as well using the same means for learning.

When asked on the effectiveness of the WhatsApp platform, Rankae said they are yet to see the results in a report from the assessment tests that students took, which will reflect the learners’ understanding of the content they are being taught.

In addition to facing technological challenges, KDNews has learned that teachers across the country are getting pay cuts.

“In April, we were able to pay our teachers full salaries but since June their salaries have been cut by fifty percent,” Rankae revealed.

Rankae, also said parents, including those that still owed the school, have been reluctant in paying school fees, taking advantage of the online learning debacle.

One school in particular as well, Leribe English Medium High School, issued a memorandum on July 20 informing the public that in addition to closing, the school’s coffers are gradually being depleted and that from August staff members will have to take significant pay cuts.

According to the World Bank Organization, they are actively working with Ministries of Education in several countries to support them in their efforts of providing distant learning opportunities while schools are closed.

The Minister of Education and Training, Ntlhoi Motsamai, was unable to comment.

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