By Khadar Mariano

The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted every aspect of life around the globe in the last three months. It changed the way we interact with each other, the way we conduct business, and the way we learn. People are conforming to social distancing, employees are working from home, meetings are conducted via Zoom and students are receiving their lessons online.

In Somaliland, the government had closed all schools and universities to prevent spread of COVID-19 in learning spaces. The schools were originally supposed to be closed for four weeks, but the period was later extended by four weeks. Educational institutions, like other institutions affected by the preventive measures, have no clues how long it will take to reopen schools and universities. They have had to adopt new ways to deliver lessons to students to meet their teaching obligations.

Universities and schools have come up with a creative solution: online classes. Distance learning is a new territory for most universities in Somaliland. It is a timely initiative to lessen the impact the lockdown has on students’ learning. Students avail themselves of enough, influx of recorded lessons and live sessions on Facebook or YouTube. These lessons benefit from interactive facilities that enable student following live lessons to ask questions or leave comments once the live lesson comes to an end. Students have found ways to boost their learning. whatsApp groups to exchange class links, assignments, and other resources have become common. Social Media platforms, which were dubbed to be a waste of time, have suddenly become a valuable resource.

A teacher in Hargeisa gives an online lesson via YouTube

Moreover, cable channels have started airing prerecorded lessons for elementary, intermediate and secondary students,. Students who do not have access to the internet or television sets can just turn on their radios because Radio Hargeisa has also started broadcasting lessons.

The interesting thing is that this new way of schooling is in a sense becoming a great equaliser regarding the quality of education students from public and private schools receive. It’s is usually the private schools that hire the best teachers since they  pay much better than government schools do, this has long caused a disparity between the quality of education students in these institutions obtain. This gap is most evident in the secondary and intermediate leaving exams taken by the Ministry of Education; private school students receive top marks . But now classes taught by the best teachers in the country are available for all on platforms like Facebook and YouTube, the educational inequality in Somaliland gets temporarily addressed.

When the lockdown is over, the  Somaliland Ministry of Education will be hard pressed to ignore educational disparities that deprive many children of life chances bestowed by quality education.

© Puntland Post Monthly, 2020

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