COVID-19 system paralysis: opportunity to innovate and change our education system

First things first – apologies for the blogging-hiatus at the Effectiveness lab. We experienced internet access issues that were out of our control – but the good news is that all is now sorted, and we are good to go once again. Look out for our weekly menu of blogs on what we love discussing – matters effectiveness.  

Now, we asked some time back whether Uganda’s education system was the poverty factory? And a poverty factory or not, we believe that the country’s education system needs changing. And there have been various attempts at that.

We opine that there has never been opportunity as apparent as now, especially for the middle-class parent in Uganda, to change the way we teach our children. COVID-19 has grounded Uganda’s education system for almost one year now. There has been no formal education since March. Save for a few privileged parents that can afford costly private tutors and schools.

The above stoppage is frustrating all the parents, poor or rich. But it has also forced parents to think about alternative education-delivery approaches. Some, made up on the go and pretty innovative. The rich already practised digital education even before the COVID-19 pandemic – but at school. But not home-schooling as we have witnessed lately.

Many of you have home-schooled children and know it works – right? So why go back to the hustle and bustle of the urban education system with all its pains – traffic jams, early and late days, mental stress to children and adults, and most of all, a less than appropriate product offer? It’s not far fetched to write that the incentive for change abounds, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis.

The incentive to innovate and why the middle class?

It’s apparent that in crisis, those with a knack to innovate thrive the most as opposed to the in-ward looking laggards that cry foul and wait for all sorts of help. Yes, we opine that middle-class parents have got the opportunity of a lifetime to change the way children are educated in Uganda.

The government is doing all they can to get children back in school. But the government can only do so much in the circumstances. Moreover, in an education system that had logistics challenges before the COVID-19 crisis: including moving kids into and out of a very congested and traffic-jammed cities, densely populated schools, access challenges, etc. Having to deal with COVID-19 SOPs only makes an already bad situation worse.  

This is the typical school setting with or without COVID-19: traditional classes with between 50 and 100 kids; location: mostly constricted spaces and small classrooms; enforcing COVID-19 SOPs is near impossible, especially since we are dealing with human beings, and exceptionally socialised ones at that – we love shaking hands, hugging, etc; congested cities, taxis, and miniature infrastructure all make the task of running a viable education system near impossible. The alternative to this dire situation is increasing school fees for the already income-stressed middle-class parent to fix the school environment or think outside the box

Normally, individuals with money are comfortable and not under any kind of pressure. Innovation slackens and we tend to keep the status quo – ever becoming more and more inneficient. But COVID-19 has hit both the poor and rich. COVID-19 is a poverty and vulnerability equaliser. It knows no poor or rich as it affects, in equal measure, if not more, the well to do.  

Middle class: bigger wallet, plugged into the eco-system of the educated and the ensuing ideation, and exposed to what is best be it online or from their so-journeys. They have the right mind, exposure to what is happening and tools to drive innovation.

There is now the incentive for the well-to-do to push themselves hard. We think that the educated should drive innovation in education. It’s the time to consider alternative means to educate our children to attain much better education outcomes and in less stressful environment. Education should be a joyful, gradual and seamless and rewarding process. In development and politics, we say, now days: ‘building back better.’

Possible menu of education innovations

Possibilities/tips to innovate in education:

  • Form education-collectives of 5 to 10 families and hire private tutors and educate children from the safety of your homes 
  • Private tutors tap into the power of digital online technology (WebEx, WhatsApp) to deliver lessons to multiple children online; communication technology can provide voice/video to masses without the need for groups coming together
  • Hire website technologists to design web portals to effectively educate your kids – with full text and voice chat options, homework delivery interface, testing interface integrated with testing agencies’ websites, etc.  
  • With the right delivery models, kids can study at home and go for testing and official certification at exam centres
  • Organise social time – at commercial places, for play and social development via the family collectives
  • etc

The case for doing the above is strong: better state of mind, wellness and accompanying learning outcomes for the children; avoid the constricted urban places and schools; an extremely low teacher/pupil ratios, cost-effective, etc. This also augments the push to prevent/lower COVID-19 infections, especially for vulnerable parents

We are curious if many of the able and generally high-cost-education affording middle-class parents will seize the opportunity to change the status-quo. How many have the right optics to visualise and exploit the opportunity? Are we too boxed, mainly due to our colonial education, that we think education only happens in straight lines, sharp corners and complete circles?

What happened to good th!nk!ng?



Categories: Change management

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