Monrovia— The Liberia Information Technology Students Union has called for forty percent online classes and sixty percent face-to-face learning.
LITSU had already developed technological solutions to fight COVID-19 in Liberia and calls for safe reopening of universities to restart traditional learning.
“We want to inform the public, that as part of our responsibility to provide solutions and aid to our country in this time of pandemic, LITSU developed and turned over to the government of Liberia a web based platform intended to counter misinformation and fake news about the virus, therefore providing facts and updates on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic to the people of Liberia,” the President of the union began.
“This web based platform gives accurate data and statistics by counties on the current status of the COVID-19 pandemic on Liberia. And we want to appreciate the public for their cooperation and usage of the site. The URL for the site is Covid19liberia.gov.lr.”
Speaking at their headquarters, the President of the union, Foldestine Paye, also commended the University of Liberia and African Methodist Episcopal University for introducing compulsory online learning for the first time in the history of Liberia.
“We commend the University of Liberia and African Methodist Episcopal University for introducing compulsory online learning for the first time in the history of Liberia that is fully operational,” the President added.
In addition, he mentioned that in spite of the fact these colleges have made available these platforms, number of students still lack access to technologies in Liberia and they face complexities ranging from high costs internet to slow internet service, and among series of other problems.
“However, these platforms are only available to those who have access to internet data, smartphones, tablets and computers, which leaves out a large number of students who lack access to these technologies in Liberia.
“Even students that have them, high costs of internet data and slowness of internet in Liberia can mitigate their access to learning,” the President further asserted.
He said that even students at the higher educational level who have little or no access to digital tools will find themselves stuck at the helm of a peripheral educational system while their counterparts or colleagues continue to learn.
“As a result, many students at the higher educational level who have little or no access to digital tools, will find themselves stuck at the periphery of the educational system while their more privileged colleagues continue to learn.”
“Looking ahead, it is important for the government of Liberia to consider how the most marginalized will be affected by moving education online.” The President of the union added.
He however, indicated that their group have digested the E-Learning Standards for Higher Educational Policy crafted by the Ministry of Education and as a result, calls for the implementation of E-Learning Standards which should initiate forty percent online classes. Since most of these tertiary institutions are still working on their learning management systems and technology is a journey and not a day, month, or year gadget.
“To be clear, we have digested the E-Learning Standards for Higher Educational policy crafted by Ministry of Education, and LITSU calls for the implementation of the E-Learning Standards for Higher Education in Liberia which talks about forty percent online classes and sixty face-to-face traditional learning.”
“After reading with comprehension about the E-Learning Standards for Higher Educational Institutions policy, it stated in the policy that “Each higher educational institution intending to participate in an e-Learning program in Liberia must meet the following requirements below.”
The President of the institution went on and on and highlighted the comprehensive policies of the Ministry that universities in Liberia are needed to aligned with if they must compete in the digital world.
He further clarified that majority of the learning institutions in Liberia do not reach the minimum standards of the E-Learning Policy that the Ministry of Education themselves crafted, which is to provide hundred percent e-learning services to students of higher learning.
“Against this backdrop, majority of the learning institutions in Liberia do not reach the above mentioned procedures and standards of the E-Learning Policy that was crafted by the Ministry of Education and commission of higher Education to provide full hundred percent e-learning services to the students and it will be prudent on the part of these institutions to provide forty percent online classes as they are still working on their learning management system and provide sixty percent face to face classes for students because digital technology is not even a day, month, or a year thing, but a journey.” Foldestine stated.
He additionally broached that the digital gap in Liberia is wide with no electricity, expensive internet, and poor campus infrastructure. He also stressed that many students, administrators, and teachers are digitally illiterate and government of Liberia will need to work with their international partners to launch Liberia one laptop to students initiatives and subsequently work to achieve the school connect program to provide affordable internet in majority of these learning institutions.
“To admit, the digital divide gap is wide in Liberia with no electricity. Internet is expensive. Our campus infrastructure need upgrade, our students, administrators and teachers are digitally illiterate.
“Our government of Liberia will need to work with their international partners to launch Liberia one laptop to students initiatives and to also work on the school connect program to provide internet in majority of the learning institutions in Liberia.” The group farther recommended.
Mr. Paye further expanded on the necessity of smart classroom initiatives and digital literacy training for students and teachers in various universities when school opens.
“The government also need to work with their international partners to provide smart classroom initiatives and also provide digital literacy training for students and teachers in various universities when school open.” He said.
“They will need to get on the back of Lonestar and Orange to provide their COVID-19 social responsibility by offering a zero rate program which the students of Liberia will use to browse for free on all schools websites, as many students cannot afford data to be educated, better informed, and able to participate actively in our democracy.”
The President of the union refined their stance that they are not against e-learning programs and can never be against their every-day message. But what they are doing is to call on the Ministry of Education to reopen colleges, as these schools are working on their learning management systems to provide education for both the have and have not students in Liberia.
“We are not against e-learning, and we can never be against the message we are preaching every day, but we are calling on the Ministry of Education to reopen universities as these schools are working on their learning management systems to provide education for both the have and have not students in Liberia.”
“We must not be blind-sided by our efforts to contain COVID-19 and end up with a lost generation.
“Just as opening businesses safely and people are gathering politically, the government need to reopen universities in Liberia and this decision must be guided by a thorough risk analysis to ensure safety of students and instructors and with key measures like physical distancing put into place.” He warned
The group finally called on all universities to keep working on their learning management systems to prepare for the future amidst global or local crises.
LITSU claimed it remains committed to its statutory mandate of advocating for the rights of all ICT students whenever their rights are taken for granted.
Written by: Thomas Williams Fomba