The decision to introduce a curfew as a mitigation measure towards the spread of Covid-19 in society has brought mixed reactions amongst some training institutions and their day-to-day operations.
In an interview Lexie Training Investment operations manager Debra Ditsala shared that since the emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic and the introduction of curfews, they have experienced a myriad of problems that ultimately changed the way they have been doing things.
She said: “We didn’t have any enrolments for March, May and July 2020 because of lockdowns. We are training institution that receives its training materials from the United Kingdom. Our supplier in the UK had to cancel exam booking and postponed them for a later date, so the candidates which registered in January had to write in November 2020. Furthermore, we struggle with payments mainly salaries and utilities. Since the introduction of curfews, we opted to conduct classes over the weekends.”
Lexie Training services is an institution based in Gaborone that provides full time and part-time courses in CIPS and Supply Chain. They serve over 200 students some coming from Mogoditshane, Taung and even Mmankgodi to name a few.
Ditsala said: “We have been in operation since 2010 and presently our challenge is that we have no source of income and currently we have few new applicants.”
Botswana Open University (BOU) on the other hand welcomes the disruption and need to integrate technology brought about by the pandemic, as they long had a proactive strategy for online delivery known as the Strategy for Technology-enhanced Learning, Teaching, Assessment and Student Support (STELTASS).
The strategy is aimed at facilitating the development, delivery, and implementation of e-learning across its programmes, with a strong desire for full implementation by 2023. With the emergence of the pandemic, BOU moved the implementation date forward and went full throttle into implementing STELTASS.
BOU Director corporate relations and marketing Bonny Bashe said “The University has been offering all its tertiary programmes online since April 2020, through its learning management system known as Moodle (an open learning platform). Prior to April 2020, the courses were offered using a blended learning approach where learning materials and some learning activities were in Moodle, and this was combined with face-to-face tutorials at our 5 regional campuses.”
“However, due to the Covid pandemic and the social distancing protocols, the University has been offering its programmes online since March 2020. Applications for admission into the various programmes of the University are also done online, as is registration,” Bashe said.
For the first time BOU examinations were conducted online in May 2020, and again in November 2020, by leveraging technology as catered for in the strategic plan.
Furthermore Bashe said: “The move to online learning and assessment has unfortunately revealed the extent of the “digital divide” or inequalities in connectivity in some parts of Botswana. Some of our students experienced challenges, although an agreement with Mascom to zero-rate access to BOU website for students mitigated the challenge somewhat. This came in very handy, especially during the lockdowns when students could not utilise Internet cafes. The students’ challenges with network and connectivity issues are addressed through dedicated and robust online support.”
“There have been some challenges regarding the online submission of assignments, which are being addressed through providing more information and induction guides for students. Another major challenge the University faces is that of the extremely high internet costs, which are believed to be amongst the most expensive in the world,” he said.
However there have been positives made by BOU and its partnerships with the private sector. Bashe revealed that: “The University further benefited from its collaboration with Mascom where the latter zero-rated students’ access to Botswana Open University online platforms from March 2020 to February 2021 for all Mascom simcard holders.”
“Innovation continues and as such, the University is developing an App that will enable students to access crucial information without requiring connectivity or internet access,” he said.