“What is this thing that has happened to us? It’s a virus, yes. In and of itself it holds no moral brief. But it is definitely more than a virus….. It is a portal, a gateway between one world and the next. We can choose to walk through it, dragging the carcasses of our prejudice and hatred, our avarice, our data banks and dead ideas, our dead rivers and smoky skies behind us. Or we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it.”
This is part of a poem by an Indian author Arundhati Roy which was published in the Financial Times. It highlights the necessary mindset needed to deal with Covid-19 in various aspects of society. This kind of mindset is required more today when it comes to our thinking about education.
One of the major challenges facing decision makers right now is whether to open schools or not.
Part of this debate is focused on using technology as another means through which access to education can be enabled. Some have argued that online education is not feasible for areas where there’s limited connectivity.
Part of this debate suffers from what Arundhati Roy correctly identifies as this mentality which seeks to drag dead ideas into the new world. There’s a resistance to adopt new methods that are designed for new realities.
The connectivity challenges in rural areas should not be the reason to kill e-learning as an enabler to access education. It should serve as motivation to come up with innovative ways of enabling access to education. It is possible to use offline methods without connectivity to access education. This method would mean that there’s access from home without exposing learners to the disease. The role of a teacher would still remain key however it will have to change.
Lack of access to devices should also not be used as a stumbling block to consider e-learning as a viable option to continue with education. There should be a drive to ensure that every learner has access to devices whether borrowed by school or not.
The Eastern Cape government should be commended for its progressive step of implementing e-learning in the province. This will go a long way in enabling access to education in a region that has faced serious education challenges. At a time when multinationals are waiting like wolves to enrich themselves, the Eastern Cape province should be commended for choosing capable African technology companies to deliver its e-learning solutions.
There’s now a major move towards virtualizing everything. In future we will see more and more areas of our society being virtualised. COVID-19 is forcing everyone towards that direction. This is a moment to accept change in education and move with it and stop dragging the past into the new world. As Arundhati Roy perfectly puts it, “we can walk through lightly, with little luggage, ready to imagine another world. And ready to fight for it”.
It will not be easy to implement e-learning solutions to enable access to education especially in rural areas but fight for it by innovating we must.
On the 22nd May, Fast Company (SA) will host the first Fast Company Talks event which will focus on education and technology. This virtual event will discuss amongst other topics how South Africa can embrace innovation in the education sector without leaving anyone behind.
*Wesley Diphoko is the Editor-In-Chief of Fast Company (SA) magazine. You can reach him via Twitter: @WesleyDiphoko
**This article was originally published in Fast Company.