From "Classroom to cloud" at Aga Khan High School Mombasa (a parent's personal experience)
When schools closed in the Republic of Kenya in mid-March 2020 little did we know that this would usher in a new way of life - we are still waiting for an opportunity to go back to normal.
I am a parent with two daughters in Aga Khan High School Mombasa. The closure of schools brought with it uncertainty and anxiety among both parents and students as the AKHS Head Teacher shared the information about the school’s plans to transit from classroom to cloud learning. At this time events happened pretty fast and the requirements for home learning were set out clearly to all of us. The sweet surprise was the institution’s Term II fees discount coupled with provisions for flexible payments arrangements.
The training of teachers, and later the training for students kick started the final preparations for take-off to the cloud. Initially my daughters were excited about technology becoming the tool for delivery under the new arrangement, but the pressure of sharing devices brought a different reality.
It then began to dawn on me that having two students learning from home was to come at a cost – new devices, conducive learning spaces, management of the learning environment during lesson times etc. This was followed by a realization that the support services (internet, power supply) needed to be reliable. I had always brushed aside the idea of installing internet at home owing to the fact that the service on my cellphone device was always adequate.
The journey to the cloud started in earnest with students being registered on the world of “Microsoft Teams”. The AKHS IT team working day and night with teachers, meant that students not only had accounts on the new platform but they also were registered in their classes, stream and subjects, within the span of a few days. The timetable was also out and off we started. This is when I realized that we needed to support the learners on aspects like logging in, attaching documents, downloading, active listening on line and sitting through long hours of lesson time at home.
It was during the initial lessons when the implementation challenges began to emerge – time keeping, attendance, doing homework, attending lessons etc.
Lessons are intensive (8.30 am – 3.00 pm). The commitment of the staff is laudable and the learning and adaptation by the administration, teachers and learners is superb. I see that we are not only there, we are also way ahead of many others who wish to take this journey. The School has become a trendsetter in this region through its structured approach to online learning.
My role as a parent has been widened - the supervision of learners is now part of my daily duties, unlike before when it was skewed towards the teachers. Mentoring, guidance and support on this platform is now an ongoing theme. Technology is fast changing, and I constantly find myself having to assist my daughters with questions of scanning, uploading, sharing documents. I thank God that my IT literacy is good and in line with current times. I imagine that my fellow parents who may not be exposed and as digitally literate, are bearing a bigger burden in this new world.
It is true that there are challenges as we move along. The pandemic has created stress and anxiety, and moved us from our comfort zones. My daughters confess that they do not miss the previous stressful daily school schedule, the traffic jams, and the school lunch served at the school cafeteria. However, they say that they miss the personal touch with their teachers during the classroom lessons and school interactions. The journey so far has been long and bumpy but we are not where we were. We have made major strides, and there is no turning back. So far so good.
Written by Dr. John Kilungu Matata, a lecturer at Technical University of Mombasa (TUM)
Photos (top to bottom):
- Esther Matata (Form 4) and her father Dr. John Kilungu Matata
- Faith Matata (Form 2) and her father Dr. John Kilungu Matata