It is open admission and reasonable deduction of the overwhelming effect of the novel COVID-19 globally.
This hitherto was not expected or by hindsight anticipated by any form of wisdom or technology.
The lives lost, collapsed businesses, world economy ground to a halt and more painfully; nobody knows when it will end. The world is watching helplessly and cluelessly on the next line of action to mitigate the destruction caused by an alien virus.
The world is aware of the sleepless nights going in laboratories and other medical facilities just to bring out vaccines to ease the rate of contraction or if possible to cure this pandemic which is ravaging the world uncontrollably.
That notwithstanding, the education sector is my concern in all this pandemonium since education is the bedrock of development of any nation. As it is known by many, schools at all levels have been shut.
Those hit, however, are the final year students across all level. This has led to the suspension of examination organized by the West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the suspension of other academic programmes by some tertiary institutions.
However, some tertiary institutions have decided to hold virtual classes via the internet to complete their programmes.
This simply means that they will hold online classes with their students, an activity which is unfamiliar with our local academic structure but very comfortable in the western world.
The completion of the academic calendar is very paramount regardless of the effect of the coronavirus and it is for that reason schools are mounting virtual classes across the globe for their students.
In spite of all these activities to ameliorate the situation, this procedure comes with its own challenges which have another tendency of causing more harm than the expected good.
For example, virtual classes demand fast internet service. We are yet to move to 5G and considering how unfaithful our telecommunication networks have dealt with us over the period, it will be difficult to fully trust the activities of the Telcos with respect to providing consistent and fast internet for our virtual classes.
Also, no research has been conducted by the schools to ascertain the phones or laptops used by the students. It will not be far-fetched if one to say that not all students have smartphones, laptops and fast internet or even regular to data.
In addition, as tertiary institution, it is believed that such innovative decisions are backed by research and feasibility studies.
This decision was largely taken out of panic and a spontaneous reaction for that. Clearly, procedures and measures have not been duly spelt out to meet the demands of most students.
This will end up in a fiasco if proper measures are not put in place. Moreover, one will wonder how final year students shall be examined since they cannot sit for an examination in groups or as a class due to social distancing.
It is due to the above-mentioned challenges and some unforeseen issues associated with these virtual classes that some of us advocate a more feasible approach in this last semester for tertiary intuitions.
It is quite clear that most course outlines have already been exhausted. Some of these pragmatic measures in solving these shortfalls in the academic arrangement are as follows:
Research-based assignment: Students should be given an assignment which involves a lot of probes, surveys and semi-researches.
This will allow students on their own to go beyond the regular short works. Students will be forced to dig deeper into topics already treated or yet to be worked on.
Innovative Assignment. For example, in the wake of the coronavirus, students can be given innovative assignments which are geared at unravelling the effects of the pandemic on the Ghanaian or African economy or the global economy at large.
Termed Work: This can be in a form of examination based on what has been taught throughout the semester but in an assignment form.
The fear, however, will be that student is likely to open books and refer to them. But the teachers have different methods of setting questions that one may not have a full benefit of books available to them unless they apply apt knowledge and tactfulness.
Application Assignments: Principles and Theories are unchanged but the application of these Principles and Theories are always different especially when it is coming from students.
It is more appropriate to assess students on this at this crucial time than create technological pandemonium with an untested method.
All these alternatives provided are basically to give other forms of assessing students. This is not to say that the virtual classes are not good.
The advice is to escape the excuse of technological failure, network failure, the inability of students to own sophisticated gadgets, and perhaps the excuse of power outages in some areas of our habitation.
In effect, however, the school must waive some of its requirements used in awarding of degrees in the country at this abnormal time.
The limitations are just too many for a student to meet and the common denominator in creating fairness is the waivers.
This will not affect the quality of the degrees not the standard of the students. Several countries have one way or the other altered their academic structure to suit the current happening. It is of public knowledge that the Government may allow senior high school graduates to write entrance examination at their preferred University instead of the mandatory West African Schools Certificate Examination.
The Sun newspaper in the United Kingdom has also reported that the prestigious Oxford University is to hold the first non-handwritten examination in its history does to coronavirus crisis.
In conclusion, the shutdown of school across was not for nothing.
Aside the spread of the virus in an exponential quantum, the psychological effect and other trauma students may have gone through by way of their relatives being infected was conspicuously considered.
The death toll in Ghana and the world at large looks frightening and it has the tendency of destabilizing some students in these crucial times.
Following the calendar and the regular academic structure, will only aggravate people miseries considering the discomfort they are already going through.
Management of Tertiary Institution is therefore advised to take a second look at their decision regarding the academic structure in this “Corona” Times.
We may end up churning out academic “stillborn” as graduates.
By Sowah Collins.