One of the perks of COVID19 is the realization that learning does not have to be confined to a brick and mortar space. When schools had to close in Tanzania on 17th March
following the pandemic, over 13 Million students were left uncertain of
their learning outcomes given their prime learning spaces were not
available. Quickly, the Government, private and development sector
mobilized learning opportunities through technology whether on TV, Radio
or on the web.
It was a time of possibilities. There is also a new reality that we
have to know, in one way or another, there is a teacher in all of us.
Shule Direct sought to support parents with this newfound task through
a parents’ corner,
which picked up so fast explaining the need. The fluid nature of
learning goes hand in hand with the flexible nature of who should be
dispensing that knowledge. If learning can happen anywhere, then
teaching can happen from anyone.
much as the promise of technology in education is encouraging we cannot
help but observe the inequality of the global education systems and the
widening gap brought about the very same thing I propagate; technology.
However, that does not mean we cannot work with what we have as we
prepare for better days. One of the famous adages during this pandemic
pushing for innovation and birth of new ventures or slimmer waistlines,
was ‘never waste a crisis’. As we came to a standstill, it was an
opportune time to leverage the stillness and be better, do better and
deliver better. As a person who found herself defending digital
platforms for learning because well, I was constantly accused that we
were leaving people behind, I really wondered how people are not
considering the alternative. Are we rather NOBODY learns than not
providing learning opportunities through technology because the digital
platforms whether on web, applications or media are not accessible. Can
the discourse also be on how we can bring children left behind to these
what is a learning platform, really? As a non-techie working in a
techie world, it is simply a combination of knowledge or information
based content presented in a format that can be accessible and providing
a learning experience to the user. Technology is a base supporting that
delivery because it can organize, manage, engage and ensure access to
millions of users at a go. Not exactly the same outputs as a human
experience, in fact in my humble opinion, technology that tries to mimic
a human experience is dead on arrival. To make it better these
platforms can have an assortment of support beyond academic curriculums,
they can include social and emotional wellbeing support, they can be
delivered in multiple dynamic formats for diverse learning needs and
abilities and better yet, the user has complete autonomy on how, what
and when they should learn. I just remembered this cartoon, that if you
judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life
believing that it is stupid. The beauty of technology, it allows
students to demonstrate learning in different ways, their assessments
can take various formats and truly be inclusive and equitable. Yes, we
should judge a fish by its ability to swim.
I do not want you to think I am here to discredit a learning experience
from human interactions. I want us to have it all, all of us to have it
all. There are so many moving parts for learning through technology to
happen, but let us break it down; we have to consider CONTENT,
TECHNOLOGY (platforms), CONNECTIVITY, DEVICES, CAPACITY (digital
literacy) and BEHAVIOURS. With all these factors together, we hope
children who engage with the ‘system’ will realize their potential.
Realized potential in this case is our return on investment, but there
are no returns without an investment.
As schools reopened on 29th June,
it is evident that at least 270,000 students across Tanzania on Shule
Direct digital platforms did not let a crisis go to waste. Students have
been taking online tests to revise while at home, talking to a virtual teacher and
tracking their progress through individual reports which they can share
with their parents. My favorite of all is enhanced parents engagement
where we witnessed 4000 parents and more registering on the platform
within two months of the new feature. Alongside new 5,322 registered teachers;
totaling 44,991 registered teachers improving parent – teacher
relations pertinent to the child’s success. COVID19 brought us together,
we were all concerned and wondered and still wondering of the fate of
our children’s education. This is an opportunity to invest, whether it
is in creating relevant educational content, developing accessible
technologies, building the right internet connectivity infrastructures,
providing affordable devices, improving digital skills and changing our
mindsets and attitudes by highlighting the positives of technology, we
all have a part to play.
we are investing in human potential, numbers do not lie. If we invest
in only 30 – 40% of our children, we cannot expect strong returns on
investment from the remaining 60% - 70%.
is a Kiswahili for school, when we say Shule Direct, we mean learning
that is personally delivered to a student. Learning as should be, a
continuum neither confined to school nor home, anytime and anywhere. We
cannot leave any child behind, let us leverage all opportunities to
learn, digital or not.