As education remains the bedrock of human empowerment, inclusive of prosperity and progressive development, institutions continually strive to provide quality education.
With the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic came the emergence of the ‘new normal’, which called for a paradigm shift in educational trends and provisions. As a result, forward-looking educational institutions are taking radical measures to revamp their systems to remain relevant to the ‘new normal’ and the anticipated future.
The Institute of Development Management (IDM) last week brought together educationists in Botswana and around the world to discuss the impact of COVID-19 on tertiary education. Facilitated by the Human Resource and Organisational Development programme under the theme Impact of COVID-19 on higher education; challenges and prospects for the future. IDM invited experts and practitioners in higher education to engage in a cross-fertilisation of ideas on mitigating the impact of COVID-19 on higher education learning environments during the crisis.
Speakers at the event challenged higher education institutions to accept reality and pursue the new normal of online education.
The keynote speaker, a renowned education expert who has served the higher education sector for more than three decades and also represented South Africa and the UN in education-related projects in Africa and around the world, Professor Roy Du Pré focused on ‘Linking theme to movement towards knowledge-based economy, technology and human resource’.
Du Pré revealed that despite the pain it has caused, COVID-19 offers the world opportunities for creation of innovations to address humanity’s problems and push the knowledge society agenda. Citing the impact of Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, who neither invented the computer nor the internet, he noted that both have made tremendous impact on the use of devices and platforms associated with those
“COVID-19 should serve as a platform for inventions with universities playing a major role,” he emphasised. Sharing on ‘Pedagogy and preparation of teachers today,’ Professor Richard Tabulawa of the University of Botswana submitted that teachers should focus on ways of organising content more, and in the process, use technology, rather than remain on their traditional teaching turf. He averred that teacher’s knowledge and methods are value laden, but relevance and review are key in pushing the boundaries of teaching in the age of COVID-19.
For his part, Asalepele Tobedza, Principal of Francistown College of Technical and Vocational Education shared the experience of using technology at the College, noting its positives as well as the challenges.
Professor Gbolagade Adekanmbi of Botswana Open University said the world has taken a new turn towards online learning.
“There is no going back. Africa must aim for higher tertiary enrolment levels and universities must constantly train their staff in all aspects of online teaching and learning. African higher education systems must be at the forefront of scientific developments to respond to future pandemics and pursue collaborative initiatives in all areas. The need for constantly rethinking ways of doing business and managing the human resources in higher education is vital. Developing strategies for promoting and managing working from home policies in the academia is crucial,” he said.
Speakers were welcomed to the webinar by IDM country director, Dr Onalenna Seitio-Kgokgwe who called on all the key players to put their hands on deck and respond to the challenge brought about by the pandemic with hope and success.