Distance Learning During COVID-19 Crisis: Primary and Secondary School Parents Experiences in Kenya
The COVID-19 disease outbreak in 2020 was declared by the World Health Organization as a Public Health Emergency (PHEIC). Human symptoms of the Coronaviruses among others are commonly spread through droplets (coughing) and close personal unprotected contact with an infected person through toughing. Based on the speed at which the disease spreads, learning institutions were distinguished as high-risk areas with prospective of exposing both learners and instructors the spreading the virus. This had a serious effect on the academic programs in all learning institutions worldwide where learning was abruptly discontinued and all students and instructors send home. The Government of Kenya (GOK) through the President’s directives suspended all learning institutions as one of the measures taken by the Ministry of Health to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. This affected the learning since most of the schools had not even started their syllabus that academic year. Alternative measures to ensure that curriculum implementation progressed well; various mechanisms were suggested including remote learning which was actualised in some instances. Virtual lessons and Open and Distance e-learning (ODeL) has mainly been adopted by institutions of higher learning (colleges and universities) globally in offering online classes. However, this was not the case in many public primary and secondary institutions where the common form of learning involves a very interactive physical relationship between teachers and their learners in classrooms. In Kenya, since all institutions of learning were closed as a result of the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ministry of Education (MOE) opted for remote learning across the country. Research results from Rangwe Sub-county have shown that most learners have not benefited much from the online classes due to the network and other related challenges reported in this paper. This has created education inequity since parents who have children in private schools and those from well of backgrounds are the ones enjoying distance learning programmes offered. The research has also found out that parents did no proper supervision to ensure that their children were committed in their studies in remote settings. Lack of supportive infrastructure (electricity and internet network access) limited children participation in distance learning programmes in Rangwe Sub-county. The paper recommends that government to properly educate parents, teachers and learners on modalities of distance and remote learning programmes. There is need for government to provide children from disadvantaged families with technological appliances to enable them to participate in distance education.