Covid-19 has had an enormous impact on education at every level all over the world. In many African countries, the experience of the pandemic has been traumatic but not perhaps as apocalyptic as some observers and experts had predicted. There are important lessons for all of us, both in Africa and outside it, in how African countries dealt are dealing with the pandemic and are working to mitigate its effect on their education systems.
Mistakes were made but there were notable successes too. Some African governments and institutions took steps that showed the sort of foresight, imagination and innovation that was often lacking in other parts of the world.
For this report, "The Effect of Covid-19 on Education in Africa and its Implications for the Use of Technology" the authors received detailed survey responses from over 1600 education and technology practitioners, experts, policy makers, administrators and investors. They asked them to share their experience and to give them their views. They asked what they - governments, institutions and individuals - should learn from the pandemic and its impact. They took the trouble to answer their questions in detail, to tell them what happened to them and give us their opinions.
1. There has been widespread school closure across Africa in response to the pandemic and 97% of respondents reported school closures in their countries, and 95% of these noted that all schools had been forced to close. This was seen as an appropriate decision, as 92% of respondents expressed that the closures were essential.
2. A lack of access to technology is considered to be the biggest barrier for learning during the current pandemic together with school closures. Respondents felt that learners in rural communities are those most likely to be disadvantaged as a result. The most cited limitation is the lack of availability and affordability of connectivity.
3. Early childhood and primary level students are seen to be most likely to be disadvantaged by the crisis and least likely to be able to access the technologies required for learning.
4. Educational TV and radio are seen as the most important technologies for sustaining learning for students at the primary level. At the secondary level, online learning is considered to be the most important.
5. Survey results show that the large majority of educators have not received financial support for teaching and learning tools to help them continue teaching in the crisis, and do not feel there has been sufficient preparation to help them adapt.
6. The majority of respondents – 83% – think that national curriculums should be adapted for the future in response to the current crisis, to enable more effective distance learning.
7. Half of all respondents – 50% – think that in the most significant long term effect of the crisis will be that it leads to new opportunities for education systems.
8. Some 85% of respondents anticipate that the current crisis will lead to more widespread use of technology in education in the future. However, they also note that this will lead to significant challenges for the most marginalised and may increase inequality.