By Oumou Khary Fall
Teaching in schools and universities was suspended on March 16, due to the raging coronavirus outbreak, leading to almost two months of interruption.
However, President Macky Sall has decided that students in the 5th, 9th and 12th grades will be able to return to the classroom by June 2.
The move is subject to the effectiveness of health safety regulations in each school and educational establishment.
For pupils not affected by this imminent reopening, the Ministry of Education has set up a digital system consisting of several teaching tools.
These include the “Learning At Home” programme, which contains resources validated by the General Inspectorate of Education and Training.
The aim of the supervising ministry is to ensure the continuity of courses.
And teachers are at the heart of making this approach work.
“Every teacher, registered in the Education Management and Information System (SIMEN), has an account that gives him access to two distance learning platforms, classrooms and teams whose aim is to simplify the creation and dissemination of courses and exercises,” SIMEN Coordinator, Seyni Ndiaye Fall explained.
The Ministry of National Education is not at its trial stage since this digital scheme “has already been tested in 181 schools and 201,687 students use the Planet School Life platform every day to interact with their teachers,” Fall said.
In Senegal where Internet penetration has been relatively low, the mainstream media (television and radio, especially community radio) are additional channels to reach the target audience as much as possible.
But how about evaluations if we know they are the purpose of the lessons?
“We haven’t yet remotely evaluated the students. This implies monitoring to make sure that it is the student who is being tested. They must not be helped,” he added.
Throughout the country, teachers are encouraged to create an account to set up virtual classrooms and in the most remote areas, paper materials will be made available to students.
Babacar Faye, a teacher at Thiaroye 44 Middle School in the suburbs of Dakar, has proposed to the Ministry of Education that lessons and exercises held at home be sent by e-mail to parents since “not all students have computers at home and Internet connectivity.”
With this programme, the Senegalese authorities want to ensure continuity in the education of intermediate class pupils while waiting for in-class teaching for all to resume.