Tuesday 31 March 2020
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COVID-19: A guide to e-learning resources amid lockdown

When Edna Mugunga first heard that there was a possibility of the initial two week suspension of schools being extended, she was worried about how she would keep up with academics. The 17-year-old and S6 six candidate at Lycée de Kigali tells Education that one week in, things are going relatively well. All this has been made possible thanks to some online resources provided by the Ministry of ICT and Innovation together with other stakeholders that have helped her and colleagues keep up with their revision despite the schools’ closure. And oddly, also made it fun while revising. “Of course at the beginning of all this, as a candidate, I could not help but wonder how this academic year was going to be. But I am so grateful that we (students) have been given a number of digital resources to help us while at home. I don’t know how I would personally do it without them,” says Mugunga. She points out that she has particularly enjoyed a number of live quizzes that expose her to a wider platform, as opposed to competing with only her classmates. “I enjoy brainstorming with other candidates all over the country, it makes me realise a number of things I have not captured so far, and I’m also optimistic that diversity in learning teaches a number of lessons,” she says. “This also makes me feel like things are I never really take a lot of time to worry about going back to the school setting. I prefer being safe and studying at the same time. They are all essential in my view.” However, she is also of the view that sometimes the only challenge faced is the expense of internet, especially for students who are always asking for money from their parents. “You know the only problem is that we don’t work, therefore, sometimes you can miss helpful interesting online lessons due to no internet. So far, that’s the only challenge I have noticed.”  Mugunga is one of many students who returned home after the government ordered schools and other large gatherings to be temporary suspended in order to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus. However, following the increased number of cases confirmed in the country and the prevailing challenges, the Ministry of Health announced that the initial two week closure of schools and other gatherings may be extended. The latest statement by the Ministry of Health indicates that Rwanda currently has 36 confirmed of COVID-19. Resources for home-schooling amid lockdown Unsure of when normalcy will resume, some schools and universities have already opted for e-learning tools. For children, it might be fun to take a break from the school workload for a moment and enjoy TV shows. However, experts have raised concerns suggesting that there is an ultimate need to keep the ball rolling, keeping in mind that many in primary and secondary schools are expected to begin their exams as soon as schools reopen. According to Maurice Twahirwa, an education expert, students should make good use of the online material and tools for fun and remote home-schooling, in the face of the pandemic outbreak. Some of the resources recommended by Education, which were also curated by the ICT Chamber under the Private Sector Federation, are designed for different purposes such as e-learning platforms, e-books and directories, and short courses. Education highlights some of the tools: 1. E-learning tools Eshuri This is an e-learning platform that allows students to take classes from home. It enables web-based interaction and has an option of mobile application. Via its live, virtual class feature, it enables testing and reporting with real performance analytics. With auto-synchronisation, students can take on learning offline and all levels from primary to university are supported. E-learning This is an online platform run by the Rwanda Education Board and is accessed via the board’s website. It allows teachers to create classes, lessons and enrol students. On this platform, students can be able to read, conduct formative assessments and get automatic feedback. Its online courses are for students in primary and secondary schools with grade, level, and subject specifications. However, the platform is only web-based and it does not support offline learning, meaning that without good internet, the student will find it difficult to follow. Rwanda Edutory This is an online directory and search engine that provides information for educational institutions and schools in Rwanda. Students, parents, other Rwandans and foreigners have access to this information with better choice. 2. Books ImagineWe ImagineWe is essentially one of the most promising book publishers in Rwanda, with a special focus on children’s books. Apart from a brick-and-mortar publishing house, the company has an app with most of its publications. Rwandan authors dominate its shelves, giving an undiluted Rwandan context. The app can be downloaded on the Google app store. Mudacumura Books Mudacumura is another publishing house. It offers a wide range of children’s books that will keep kids occupied, and it is free. 3. Technical skills Creativity.rw This is a children’s creativity lab to stimulate early age excitement for science fields. If your child is enrolled in any STEM subject, or you want to challenge children in problem-solving, critical thinking and creativity, this is the right tool. The platform offers courses in computer science, engineering, robotics and design thinking. Through its YouTube videos, Creativity provides DIY (Do it Yourself) tutorials to make simple electronics. Nyerekatech.com This start up sells electronic components and provides technical skills. You can buy tools/materials such as sensors, LED lights and actuators to make your own gadgets via its e-commerce feature. Payment modes include mobile money, PayPal, MasterCard and Visa. 4. Career guidance Opanda.xyz Opanda is a platform that complements the education curriculum with provision of highly interactive content, evaluation tests, digital laboratory experiments and other learning resources. It offers teaching aid tools and content development. Baginnovation.rw This is a school-to-work platform that helps university students and graduates gain virtual experience with employers and match with over 200 employers on the platform. 5. Programming Codeck.rw This is a web service that lets students learn coding through content shared by their teachers and parents to track the progress of their kids. Progate.com Though not an indigenous tool, Progate is a simple but highly recommended platform to help your child learn coding. The web service is used by over a million people and available in more than 100 countries. Unlike long texts and dull videos, Progate presents information through intuitive slides. It allows self-paced learning of 15 languages. Accessibility explained Following the emerging concerns from students, key stakeholders have announced that the issue is being looked into and that school websites are likely to be free, for students to be able to keep studying with no hindrance. According to Dr Charles Murigande, University of Rwanda is in close partnership with telecommunication houses, in order to reduce and possibly waive costs from the UR e-learning platform. This, he says, will help to address the challenge of the costly internet faced by varsity students in the country. Sources from the Ministry of ICT echo the same sentiments, saying that the government is exploring free access to school websites. Irene Ndayambaje, Director of Rwanda Education Board, is of the view that students have no excuse to fail when schools reopen, because, “we have provided all the necessary material that they need and we also urge parents to closely monitor them as we fight the spread of coronavirus.”


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