Students raise online learning concerns

01 April 2020 | Education

Ester Kamati

WINDHOEK



The Students Union of Namibia (SUN) wants the University of Namibia (Unam) to reconsider its decision to offer online learning, due to poor internet connectivity in villages and informal areas.

The university is using online learning conducted through various apps and learning materials on Moodle and other platforms.

In an open letter addressed to the vice-chancellor of the university, SUN national chairperson Oscar Mwandingi said poor internet connectivity in villages and informal settlements will put students at a disadvantage.

“Public places such as libraries and universities, where students who do not have electricity at home and laptops could at least go, have been locked down,” Mwandingi said in the letter

“If the university proceeds with its plans, it risks disadvantaging a critical mass of students.”

Mwandingi said a high possibility of failure can be expected, which will result in students losing their loans or scholarships.



Aware of concerns

Unam academic affairs student representative Oscar Hacui said he is aware of the concerns and that management is working out an approach.

A statement on the way forward is expected from the university, confirmed John Haufiku, the institution's public relations officer.

Hacui shared that, as expected, students will face some challenges, but should not despair.

“The virus disrupted our society and all of us are affected,” he said.

He advised students to regularly check the relevant platforms to ensure that learning continues.



Learning resources

The biggest challenge for students is internet accessibility, and while the university was meant to issue students with 4G and pocket Wi-Fi routers, it was unable to do so due to a supplier shortage, said Haufiku. However, some devices have already been handed out.

Despite the closing of the university's library, Haufiku said this does not mean library services are unavailable. He said librarians are still available to assist students and that e-resources are available.

“We want to try and continue,” he said, adding that the lockdown period might be extended and the institution hopes to keep the learning process ongoing.

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