/Higher Education and Teaching Quality: Challenges and Perspectives In The Wake Of Covid-19 – Clifford Otieno Owino and Rachel W. Kamau-Kang’ethe

Higher Education and Teaching Quality: Challenges and Perspectives In The Wake Of Covid-19 – Clifford Otieno Owino and Rachel W. Kamau-Kang’ethe

Clifford Otieno Owino and Rachel W. Kamau-Kang’ethe
Kenyatta University – KENYA

The Covid-19 Pandemic brought about educational halt in Kenya disrupting nearly 17 Million learners countrywide. The institutions of higher learning have bin forced to switch to learning mediated through ed-tech which has remained out of reach for many disadvantaged children not only due to inaccessibility, but also due to connectivity challenges.
Key words: Human rights to education, COVID-19, human resource and disadvantaged learners.

Basic education to all school going children is a global predominant right. This inalienable human right of education is articulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, article 26 (UN, 1948). (Jomtien Declaration (The World Conference on Education for All), advocates for basic education accessible to all (EFA). All children with or without disabilities need equal access and integral education (UNESCO, 1990). The Dakar Framework of Action requires member nations not only to ensure that EFA goals and targets are attained, but also sustained within individual countries (UNESCO, 2000). UNESCO, (2015) reiterated that guaranteeing education for all should ensure inclusive, equitable and quality education thereby committed nations towards a 2030 target of lifelong learning for all.

Education for all has been echoed in the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) of 2000 in order to reinforce the effort to ensure the Universal Declaration of Human Right to education. Goal 2 which proposes that by 2015, member nations should have guaranteed Universal Primary Education (UPE) to every child. Every child either from diffi cult circumstances or belonging to ethnic minorities should complete a full course of primary schooling without any form of judgment (UNESCO, 2000). Unfortunately, in the target year (2015). UPE was not achieved which lead to aspirations carried forward to Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Goal 4 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDGs-Goal 4 recommits member nations to offer inclusive and equitable quality education as well as promote life-long learning opportunities to all children (UN, 2015).

African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, article 17(1) pledges the right to education. Article 2 similarly demands the enjoyment of the right without favoritism. Further, article 18 (4), postulates that persons with disabilities should be accorded special education, protection measures in reference to their physical and moral needs (OAU, 1981). Additionally, article 3(a) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child contends that every individual child has an alienable right to education. Section 3(e of the same chatter ) further urge state parties to take special measures in respect to female, gifted and disadvantaged children by safeguarding equal access to education (OAU, 1990). All learners irrespective of their disability have the right to access basic education from any institution of their choice (GOK, 2009; GOK, 2013).

International Labour Organization ILO (2012) claims that improvements in the social and career prospects of teachers are the best means of overcoming any existing shortage of competent and experienced teachers. Suffi cient quantity should be closely associated with maintaining, improving teacher quality by planning pre-service and in-service teacher training and continuing Professional development (CPD) Further, a key to retaining well-qualified teachers is to offer clear career paths and genuine career development options. IAU (2020) coauthored the article „Universities must help shape the post-COVID- 19 world“ with Ira Harkavy (Netter Center for Community Partnerships, University of Pennsylvania), Sjur
Bergan (Council of Europe) and Tony Gallagher (QUB, Belfast). The article argues that, a better post-COVID-19 world „requires democratic civic universities dedicated to producing
knowledge and educating ethical, empathetic students for just and sustainable
democratic societies“. In the same article, SDGEducation 2030 Steering Committee equally calls on all governments and partners to respect the policy recommendations in their response to COVID19 and World Bank policy paper: „COVID-19 Crisis Response by supporting tertiary education for continuity, adaptation, and innovation“.

According to Aseey (2020), most activities in Africa from social, political and economic stalled due to COVID-19 outbreak. This prompted the African Union CDC offi cials to state that the coronavirus epidemic is an “existential war for the continent”. In the education sector, the situation may never be the same with over 1, 268,164,088 (72%) of learners out of their institutions in over 177 countries in April 2020. The institutional closures, in conjunction with hash tags like, #lockdown, #social distancing and #stay at home requires new innovative
approaches to be conceptualized. Some of the strategies and approaches which are being used in availing education to the learners have been through homeschooling, radio, the television, remote learning, online learning, virtual learning, blended learning and gasifi cation.

Genvieve (2017), postulates that competent teachers should be produced in tandem with the needs of modern society. School teachers should be competent to initiate and pioneer technological development for instruction. Only teachers who are competent in instructional media technology can guide and equip learners with skills of modern technology. This is possible because instructional media technology is inherent of practical manipulations which are reminiscent of other engineering technological fi elds like Information and Communication Technology. Technology defi nes the man of the day (Kamau-Kang’ethe, 2020).

In Kenya, the quest for promoting the quality of preparing school teachers is articulated in sessional paper number 2 of 2002. It called for improvement of quality in Teacher education Programme. The paper expressed was of the opinion that without putting in place modernized Teacher education programme, Kenya may not be able to fully participate in modern international developments. The sessional paper number 2 of 2002 called urgent reformation to over-haul the existing Teacher education programme to prepare and produce competent teachers of 21st century for industrialization process (GoK, 2002). Unfortunately, the recommendations of this sessional paper were never implemented. FKE (2015)
revealed that in 2012, the Commission for Higher Education realized the mismatch between the graduates and their competence at the job place and contends that all the Kenyan university lecturers should undergo pedagogical induction (GOK, 2012). FKE (2015)
co-incite the fi ndings of CUE that there has been an increased trend in skill mismatch among employees in the Labour market resulting to employers spending extra resources to induct the new employees each year.

According to the 2010/2011 National Manpower Survey Basic Report (NMSBR) as cited in FKE (2015), each year, our education and training institutions churn out tens of thousands
of graduates who end up in careers for which they were not trained. This anomaly describes dire skills mismatch by Labour economists, leads to wastage and impedes Kenya’s global competitiveness.

On 15 March 2020 University World News (2020) the Kenyan government closed schools, colleges and universities nationwide in response to COVID- 19 invasion. The abrupt closure of schools disrupted nearly 17 million learners countrywide. Since schools closed in Kenya, the ministry of education and other agencies has indicated that learners should undertake
online learning or technology-mediated learning on TV, radio, ed-tech apps, and mobile phones. While such learning may take place in urban areas, for many marginalized children in remote villages including—children in refugee camps as well as those living with various disabilities—learning during school closures is a deep challenge. In more clear terms, the social and economic costs cannot be compared and have devastating consequences.
This is the case for learners in rural and marginalized communities like the Maasai, Samburu, Turkana, Pokot, Marakwet, and Sabaot, and in coastal regions. Refugee children in areas like Kakuma and Dadaaab refugee camps; and children with disabilities are adversely affected (Parsitau and Jepkemei, 2020).

‘May be to quote, I have been meditating about what we have learned from Katrina and how life will change—especially how schools will change. ‘After Hurricane Katrina, the state of Louisiana took over almost all traditional public schools in New Orleans and eventually replaced them with charter schools that have autonomy over their budget and resource
allocation. The resulting governance structure creates autonomy, performance-based accountability, and competition at the school’ level’ BUERGER and HARRIS, 2017).

The instructor’s perspectives of remote learning is infl uenced with untold number of challenges including lack of well-defi ned infrastructure- systems, lack of adequate preparation for the sudden change, having both students and instructors at home at the same time, lack of internet connectivity, students preparedness, cost of teaching and preparation for online teaching, online assessment and evaluation nightmare (Aseey, 2020).

Learning mediated through edtech remains out of reach for many disadvantaged children like learners living with disability due to accessibility and connectivity challenges. In remote parts of Kenya like Kajiado, Narok, Samburu, Turkana, and Kilifi counties, electricity has not reach
households, excluding children from online learning. Students on the other hand have developed negative attitude towards use of technology which must be change. Furthermore, they lack reasonable and relevant devices to facilitate the learning process but they do not have the required knowledge and skills to use them. Some are from nomadic communities who notably are in one place during scheduled classes, students with disabilities lose in the online process due to lack of proper model of accessibility to computers and internet connectivity in rural areas. To make matters worse, no preparation on migration from face to face to online learning since the change caught institutions unawares. Institutions further face multiple challenges due to the move from school to remote learning like cost, policies to
implement it, structures and facilities, staff training, relevant and available resources, student’s diversity and online examination issues.

In adapting and adopting the new learning and teaching paradigms as the new normal brought by COVID-19, the traditional public schools in New Kenya and the world at large should be replaced with charter schools that have autonomy. Education sector has to control the assets of home-based learning as instructors stay and work from home, rather than trying to recreate school of the past conception. All the institutions must expand their capacity and embrace the remote mode of learning by registering all their learners for the mode, which is capable of bringing private meaningful learning experiences that can connect to learners’ home environment, interest and local identities and also use the available devices in the home environment. Since the instructor is not immediately present in front of the class as learners in Kenya are used to, some necessary adjustments must be done by the education institutions and the learners (pupils/students) to ensure its effectiveness especially to vulnerable and children with disability.

The educational institutions have to weather the storm of the pandemic by coming up with a policy that will guide meeting the demands of enhanced teaching and learning by use of an array of devices and systems in changing the education system in the country for years to come with learners simply utilizing and appreciating the value of digital devices they have in their hands like mobile phone, smart phones, laptops, tablets among others.

For institutions, the whole process of learning and teaching should be drastically changed to incorporate new inventions and innovations which will aid and enhance in offering quality, relevant and competitive education. All the instructors must undergo compulsory refresher training in digital technology. This will go alongside in helping in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) for all including persons with special needs wherever and whenever they are during the new times.

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