TERTIARY institutions around the country will have to heed directives on Open and Distant Online learning as face-to-face lectures are currently not an option due to the outbreak of COVID-19.
While student representative organisations have bemoaned government’s decision as many students do not have access to technology, Executive Director of Higher Education, Alfred Kent, that e-learning is currently the only option.
Kent made these remarks during the sectoral meeting on the impact of COVID-19 on Higher Education held on 7 April, alongside Dr Delvaline Mowes, Director of the Centre for Open Life Long Learning at Nust and Dr Maggy Beukes-Amiss, Director of Centre for Open, Distance and eLearning at the University of Namibia (Unam).
Kent noted that government will change the mode of learning for all tertiary institutions into Open and Distant Online Learning.
He added that smaller tertiary institutions will have pressure exerted on them as they mainly rely on student tuition funds whilst state-owned universities are subsidised by government.
He further stated that access to e-learning requires bandwidth and data and as such, students should be assisted as some may not have laptops, devices or even electricity to charge these devices at home.
“We need to do a statistical analysis on who can afford E-learning. Government will also commence with the release of tuition fees to help institutions stay afloat during these trying times. If there is an extension after the 21 lockdown, we are ready to support students, however, modalities need to be assessed,” Kent stated.
Speaking on behalf of NUST, Dr. Delvaline Mowes stated that 27% of students do not have access to devices.
She, however, stated that NUST, with a student population of 12 800 students scattered across the country both on distant and full time learning, is a fully certified distance learning institution.
Dr Beukes-Amiss reverberated the above sentiments and added that social distancing is the best way forward with regard to the curbing of COVID-19.
She added that e-learning is a commonplace for Unam as the university went fully online with its core modules in 2018.
“We’ve developed a COVID-19 website which assists students to learn remotely. We are ready to move forward. Practical methods have been put in place such as provision of sim cards with 10 GB data. If we have students that are falling through wayside, efforts will be put in place when the situation normalises,” Dr Amiss said.
Nust has extended its mid-term break and the Unam has since suspended face-to-face lectures and instead implemented an online learning system.