After the first case of COVID-19 was reported in Kenya last year, the government put in place several measures to limit human contact as a way of slowing the spread of the virus. This included indefinite closure of schools and tertiary education institutions. With this closure, digital learning seemed one of the most viable options in the country’s education sector. But this quickly proved to be difficult to enforce due to various factors such as limited access to electricity and internet in various rural areas and shortage of teachers.
The digital divide refers to the gap between those who can access electronic gadgets with internet and information and those who have no access. There are a lot of options for Kenyans in the digital market with many service providers and brands selling their merchandise here. Despite the tremendous growth in access to technology in Kenya, many Kenyans especially those living in the rural areas and those in low income areas still have limited access to electricity and internet. This situation was further accentuated by the COVID-19 pandemic at time when digital learning became more of a necessity.
The government of Kenya through its ministry of Education put in place several measures to narrow the digital divide. For instance they partnered with the national broadcaster Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) to air educational programs via their TV and radio channels. While this helped, many students on the lower end of the digital divide still could not access education.
Effects of the Digital Divide During The Lockdown Period
Limited access to study material
Teachers and students in areas without access to the internet and technology were unable to access study material to further their education agenda. This meant that many missed classes and could not continue learning or teaching like their counterparts with internet and technology access.
Many students from the areas on the lower end of the divide faced unfair competition as they were not as well taught as their counterparts. The students had a difficult time to get access to education and prepare for exams with minimal help from teachers. Additionally children with learning disabilities such as blindness, ADHD and dyslexia among others could not catch up as many of the digital learning models could not cater to their special needs.
The hustle of getting education, lowered the motivation levels of many students. This made it even harder to get them back to class once the schools reopened. This could affect literacy levels in future. Furthermore some of those with internet access struggled to stay focused in class and this compromises learning.
Change of learning environments
Many students with internet access went from learning in proper facilities to learning in unfavorable environments. Some of them included noisy cyber cafes and unstable homes just to mention a few. This made it hard for them to concentrate in class and gain from the knowledge.
The many challenges that came about with online learning overall affected the performance of the students in class and even in exams. Many students grappled with the sudden changes and unhealthy mental states that was even worse for those without internet access.
In conclusion, the lock down period was a call for the education sector to embrace digital learning by narrowing the digital gap. This will in turn ensure that learners from all walks of life will be able to access digital learning material easily and fairly.