Assessing the digital needs and capabilities of students and educators would be one of the ways to ensure that E-Learning takes shape in Africa’s health professions training schools amidst the pandemic, Dr. Elsie Kiguli-Malwadde, Vice President of AFREhealth suggests.
While delivering a presentation on the challenges of COVID-19 and its impact on health professional training, Dr Kiguli-Malwadde, who is the ACHEST Director of Health Workforce Education and Development, highlighted the digital inequalities that both students and faculties are facing during the COVID-19 imposed a lockdown on education.
The webinar, organized by AFREhealth webinar was held on August 7, 2020, under the theme “Preparing for the New Normal for Health Professional Training in Africa Amidst COVID-19"
Dr. Kiguli-Malwadde gave an overview of pre-existing challenges for Africa’s health workforce, which have been escalated further by COVID-19 and the resulting lockdowns that have been instituted by different countries.
“ This has disrupted the training of future professionals. There have been school closures, loss of learning time and it is a challenge for even schools that are open to programme their activities. Those in clinical disciplines face a greater challenge with training in clinical settings,” she said.
A recent World Health Organisation study in 42 countries concerning educational institutions generally found that schools were open in only 9 countries, while 14 had schools completely closed and 19 partially closed.
Dr Kiguli-Malwadde observed that although a number of schools were trying to adjust to the use of new technologies, the challenges were enormous.
“In cases where ICTis being used for learning, there are challenges with internet connectivity and where there is connectivity, even getting the data is a problem. Some don't even have laptops, or access to computers especially when schools closed and students had to go back home. Many do not have access to devices,” said Dr. Kiguli-Malwadde.
She also told the webinar that in a random survey done by AFREhealth on E-Learning, only 4 out of 17 universities surveyed had zoom licences, while only 3 had learning management systems. Asked how they were managing, only 7 of them were using online platforms such as zoom, Go-meeting, MS Google teams, Whatsapp and Skype.
In the clinical setting, there is a lack of PPEs and a lack of support. “Some health professional educators have postponed clinical work and this is causing a problem for their students to be able to achieve clinical competencies,” said Dr. Kiguli-Malwadde.
Moving forward, she called for the assessment of the capabilities of students and teachers, as well as infrastructure to be able to adopt technological solutions.
“There is a need to explore options for distance learning tools which people have already started exploring and train teachers on how to use and engage students on distance learning tools. The educators need to appreciate that E-learning has limitations with interaction between lecturers and students. There is even greater need to keep time and track student engagement because many students may lose out as we adopt new technology,” said Dr. Kiguli Malwadde.
Because not all tools are adaptable to all contexts, there is a need to limit the number of applications used.
“We need to emphasize tools that are compatible with our smartphones because smartphones are cheaper and more available than laptops and computers,” she added.
“ We should also work with telecoms to try and reduce the costs of the internet for the students and faculties. Create support communities for both students and teachers so that no one is left behind. We must ensure disadvantaged students are not left behind,” she said
Other speakers at the webinar were Dr. David Nabarro, a special envoy of the WHO Director-General on COVID-19, and Dr. Gaya Gamhewage from the WHO Health Emergencies Program.
Dr. Nabarro’s presentation was on key strategies to consider as medical/health training institutions open up amid the pandemic, while Dr. Gamhewage spoke about developing COVID-19 online courses; content, experiences, and lessons learned.
Compiled by Carol Natukunda, Communications Specialist, ACHEST
MORE: VISUAL PRESENTATION: https://youtu.be/N9QPqkV9FW4
AUDIO RECORDING: Listen/Download
COVID-19 and HPE - E. Kiguli-Malwadde
Rising to the Challenge - D. Nabarro
Developing COVID 19 Online Courses - G. Gamhewage