सोमबार, साउन २३ २०७९
काठमाडौं ०३:२४
वासिङटन डिसी 17:39

Lockdown effect on digital literacy

Dr. Manoj Bhattarai २०७७ साउन ८ गते ९:४१ मा प्रकाशित

The world has seen the devastating effects of the COVID-19 outbreak and its effect on learning has been equally devastating, more so in the developing countries. Schools are not able to host students in classrooms as lockdown orders are enforced. The ability of educators and administrators to continue educating children has come under severe restrictions. Learning has come to a halt in many areas as residents try to endure separation from normal life and normal activities. However, in one of the girls’ orphanages in Nepal, a dedicated group of instructors, health specialists, and a local supervisor have been fighting back against the Coronavirus and its disastrous shut-down of society
Health Foundation Nepal takes on the challenge

Most towns and schools in Nepal lack the infrastructure for communications and computer connectivity to the internet. The lack of communications and computer equipment has forced many schools to close down until the COVID-19 crisis abates. The economic divide between wealthy schools and poor school systems has been brought to the forefront as one of the main casualties of the Coronavirus epidemic. But in Chitwan, the non-profit Health Foundation Nepal has been able to accomplish in one of its beneficiary centers what many previously thought was impossible. Prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, the organization had been able to connect to 22 schools and 2 shelter homes by engaging computer teachers and education experts with a little help and support from the local community. After the Coronavirus struck, students were sent away from all the schools and one shelter, however, one orphanage center had to keep its students as they had nowhere else to go.

Networking for success

The sole remaining orphanage, the Shree Sathya Sai Children Service Home in Chitwan, takes care of 23 orphan girls ranging in age from 6 to 23 years-old. This center decided to continue the girl’s education using digital literacy training provided through a computer program created by Health Foundation Nepal with the help of in-center student, Juni Sharma, a Bachelor’s candidate studying computer applications. A computer tutor, Nabin Shrestha, who would meet with students in 3 to 4 schools every day to train them in using the computer programs prior to lockdown has started training the girls of Shree Sathya via Zoom conference since the shut down of the school system.

Help from far away and close to home

The students in Chitwan are also being tutored by US-based students. The Health Foundation Nepal supports student interaction through the Peer-assisted Education Enrichment and Mutual Mentoring (PREM) program. As a result of this program, students were able to connect to virtual mentors in the United States last week to discuss the SpaceX rocket launch as well as review efforts to help clean the world’s oceans. This important addition to the student’s curriculum provided an hour-long health literacy session concerning the Coronavirus. The COVID-19 education webinar was provided by Samridhi Khatri, an MBBS graduate, leaving for the United States soon to complete her medical residency training at the United States hospital. Since the closure of the schools in Dang, Sulochana Ghirmine, who is on the staff of the public health service of the Health Foundation Nepal in Dang has begun training Sai students basic health literacy. Sulochana is also increasing public awareness of common health issues and solutions via FacebookTM and other social media outlets. Never before has this type of effort been achieved in such a short time and to such a great degree of success.

Top-down solutions

The country director of the Health Foundation Nepal, Madan Bhatta, meets with instructors every week to determine if teachers and administrators are identifying the student’s needs and to see if any gaps exist in the delivery of the digital education online. This new program is taking teachers into the 21st Century using advanced teaching and computer technologies. The spread of digital learning will be one tool to fight back against the ravages of the Coronavirus pandemic and keep students learning despite the challenges they face at home and in their communities. The digital divide between rich and poor students has been lessened by the efforts of everyone included in this pioneering effort, albeit at a smaller scale. Students have responded positively by spending time learning the skills and techniques to be productive as well as to gain knowledge from the new educational standard.

Digital literacy equals health literacy

Teaching students and their families about the best practices concerning Coronavirus avoidance and treatments is vital to keeping Nepal safe. The lessons learned by the advent of the pandemic have served to better illustrate not only the disparity between urban and rural schools but also the advantages digital education can provide toward gaining more equality between the two. Improving educational and health information systems will only result in a better workforce going forward into the future but it will also guarantee a better-equipped population able to respond to future catastrophes with greater strength and unity.

Building the future one computer at a time

When students can once again return to their classrooms and in-class instruction can begin to take place, things will be different. Students and teachers will have learned new skills and new techniques for gaining and disseminating knowledge. The time required to rebuild and update computer equipment, networking systems, and computer applications have enabled many educators to start the process of including digital learning into their curriculums and teaching. The importance of communications and networking throughout the rural communities across Nepal highlights the value Nepal places on its students, its culture, and its future. With the assistance of government programs coordinated at all levels toward connecting Nepal’s students with the world, a new, exciting chapter will be written in Nepal’s history.

One solution among many

While studies have shown online education is not as impactful as in-person classroom interactions between students and teachers, it is a valuable tool that can help keep students learning during difficult times. Training for online education will only enhance a student’s ability to learn and to gain knowledge as well as to aid in providing a valuable resource for news and information concerning daily life. Only by taking advantage of modern technology can students and educators help each other develop the best tools and delivery systems for future generations. The Health Foundation Nepal along with concerned citizens and supportive educators, has taken on the challenge of educating students during difficult times with great focus and promising results.

Dr. Manoj Bhattarai is a vice president of Health Foundation Nepal and coordinates its Digital Literacy Program.