Monday, September 28, 2020

Covid 19 widens gap between Botswana’s education “haves” and “have nots”

You only have to listen to Thobo Khathola for a few minutes as he explains how his private tutoring business works to realize how much the Coronavirus pandemic is going to widen the gap between Botswana’s have and have nots.

This education inequality dilemma is not lost on the Managing Director of Lion Tutoring who told Sunday Standard lifestyle that, “parents experiencing financial difficulties have been catered for at Lion Tutoring. We have a credit operation where clients request to sign payment agreements and pay at a later stage upon approval. However, not all clients are approved since we ourselves prioritize paying our staff salaries, rentals, taxes etc.”

Khathola explained that, “at Lion Tutoring, we have a flexible program that assures that during lockdown (like now), students are able to resume their sessions online through Skype. With most exams postponed to the end of the year, we are experiencing a high number of students needing our services to prepare for the exams. We are also experiencing a high number of home-schooling requests where parents are pulling their children from formal schooling and engaging our teachers to home school their children in fear of Covid19 outbreaks in schools.”

Lion Tutoring has branches in CBD Head Office in Central Square, Maruapula and Phakalane, they also tutor students in Francistown, Palapye and Maun. 

With a growing number of Botswana teachers and students testing positive or placed under quarantine most parents know that it is no longer a matter of “if” but “when.” Those with resources are turning to private tutors to either home-school their children or help them while schools are closed.

Private tutors have been in high demand in the country over the last few weeks. Although students are back in school, some parents have been worried about sending their kids back in the midst of a pandemic. But most are even more concerned about the quality and consistency of their children’s education, and many are just not happy with the options presented by schools. 

Kgomotso Jongman of Jo’Speaks, “online tutoring seems to be the only option in this lockdown. This pandemic has forced a paradigm shift on Batswana teachers who are now exploring online instruction.

The traditional in-class teaching methods are being replaced by virtual tuition as the pandemic rages on. New businesses are mushrooming following the emerging virtual tuition market. Although tutoring isn’t new, a new thinking about school has evolved. Learning in school is based on the students understanding of countless rules. This understanding grows within the student through the emotional and physical presence of the teacher, inspiring them to want to learn, to give them the confidence and the understanding of how to solve the learning tasks they give them. Teachers and tutors have had the sharpest learning curve when it comes to teaching online and have had to move out of their comfort zones to learn how to teach better in the virtual space.”

Sunday Standard Lifestyle has established that while private tutoring is a desirable option for most parents, access is still reserved for a small percentage who can afford the costs. Parents with the resources are setting up learning pods or seeking other options to help their children during this time. But for parents who can’t afford tutoring the do-it-yourself method to education threatens to leave behind their children. Parents are now playing an even bigger role in determining what and how their children learn, and they are arranging all the resources they have at their disposal to ensure it goes more smoothly. But many parents don’t have the money to hire private instructors or the flexibility to home-school their children. Those with money and resources sprint ahead while those without lag behind. A lot of families still don’t have access to laptops and Wi-Fi hotspots which are required to learn from home and for some, keeping schools closed cuts off access to food, medical care and a refuge from abuse which is an even bigger problem.

Parents who have been quarantining in the house with their children have struggled to engage with them academically and have turned to tutoring services, friends and even social media to find creative and mentally stimulating ways to keep their children active. Most students have already fallen behind by many months, with some students even losing the equivalent of a full school years’ worth of academic gains. 

Before COVID-19, private educators were occasionally used outside of situations involving children with special needs or parents who traveled extensively or those who have problem areas in one or two subjects. Now, more and more parents who have never had nannies or tutors before are reaching out in droves for private tutors.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.