Ministry Of Education E-Learning Move Right, Says Vice Chancellor Victoria University

By Dr Krishna N. Sharma 

Higher education training institutions across the country were excited to know that the National Council for Higher Education (NCHE) finally released guidelines for adoption of an emergency Open, Distance and E-Learning (ODeL) system during COVID-19 pandemic.

It is also applauding of the First Lady and education and sports minister Mrs Janet Museveni, gave the go-ahead for online teaching to enable the higher institutions of learning to offer learning during the current lockdown.

Though a few institutions had already engaged their students in teaching and learning activities using online platforms, the students and institutions were still uncertain about the continuity. If we leave out the institutions that started online teaching and learning early, for some of them, this guideline is a vanity, appreciating it is sanity, but complying with it is a yet-to-be-tested reality.

Institutions were concerned about the delay in issuing the guidelines as it was affecting the sustainability of institutions and the progress of students. But after reading this carefully crafted five-paged compact to-the-point document, it becomes clear why did it take time. The good thing is that the NCHE consulted the universities, took note of their suggestions, analysed, and then came up with this guideline. So, it is expected that the majority of the institutions co-own it.

These guidelines ask higher education training institutions to avail 26 different pieces of evidence. But the beauty of this guideline is that it protects academic freedom and institutional autonomy. These essential pieces of evidence cover a wide range of areas including but not limited to students, human resource, ODeL model, evaluation and assessment, ICT infrastructure, quality assurance, health and safety, and compliance with relevant laws and regulations.

The very first expectation in this guideline is the existence of COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) as issued by the Ministry of Health. It indicates that NCHE has prioritised the health and safety of students and staff. It is something the higher education training institutions should already have in place as it has been long since the Ministry of Health issued the guideline.

The immediate challenge higher education training institutions may face is crafting a cost-effective ODeL system that addresses the need of institution and students. This can be well guided by doing a student survey to find out their readiness. Knowing the readiness and challenges of students will help institutions not only find practical solutions and build required ICT infrastructure but also help them propose reasonable mitigation measures and strategy of redress for time and learning lost. The survey will guide the discussion with relevant stakeholders on mitigation measures and approach.

However, just having the ODeL system and ICT infrastructure is not enough until the users know how to use it. Higher education training institutions need to train their staff and students on appropriate and effective utilisation of ODeL system for online teaching, learning, assessment and evaluation. It is also vital to ensure that the students and staff are aware of internet ethics and relevant laws and regulations such as the Data Protection and Privacy Act 2019.

There will be challenges at students’ end too. Few students may find e-learning financially constraining if there are longer face-to-face teaching and learning hours, mentally constraining if they have poor internet connection, and physically constraining (e.g. eye strain, neck pain, backache) if they don’t have quality tools to access ODeL. It is important to inform students about these constrains and help them learn cop up mechanisms.

Another important area, the institutions need to focus on is online assessment and evaluation. There will be a need for smart use of ICT to avoid cheating while ensuring security and privacy. Institutions should find creative and innovative ways to establish a framework that ensures fair assessment and evaluation without over-complicating the whole process.

In a nutshell, the guidelines have covered all essential areas and the ball is in the court of higher education training institutions and students. The post-pandemic period is not going to be the same and the e-learning is going to prepare both the education sector and the student for the same. It is not going to be a swift shift for many institutions and students, but it is worthwhile.

We must applaud the government on the move taken to allow e-learning. We should have had it in this country years back. The mere fact that now that the government has pronounced itself on the matter, this is highly laudable.

The writer is a Vice-Chancellor for Victoria University in Kampala.

Speke Resort, Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort Lure Customers With These Offers

The tourism sector has been hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic due to the global travel restrictions imposed by world governments as they prevented travellers from spreading and contracting the virus that has left almost 8m people hospitalized worldwide.

Uganda, with a tourism sector dependent on foreign travellers, and with an almost non-existent domestic tourism base, is struggling to get back. Government and sector players are devising means to re-energize their businesses.

And following the partial uplifting of the COVID-19 lockdown, service providers like hotels and resorts are now eying the local market. To lure local clientele, they are coming with affordable packages and tariffs.

One such entity remodelling their business is Speke Group of Hotels who through their twin resorts – Speke Resort and Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort – has lined up affordable promos, packages and tariffs to attract guests.

Management at Speke Resort indicated that they have committed their resources to observe the highest standards of cleanliness and hygiene and implemented a number of additional measures to ensure safety and well being of guests.

 Below we look at some of the promos which despite of the ongoing health risk of COVID-19 pandemic can be exploited by anyone looking for the adventure and thrill of life.

Horse Riding At The Equestrian Centre

Horse riding is a new adventure that Ugandans have embraced well and are willing to take whenever the opportunity arises. Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort’s equestrian centre is offering discounts for interest quests.

At the moment, you can enjoy 20 minutes of a pony ride for at the cost of Shs30, 000; a one hour hack at Shs55, 000; private lessons for 30 minutes at Shs50, 000; shared lessons for 45 minutes for 2 people at Shs50,  000 each; group lessons for 3-8 people for 45 minutes at Shs40, 000; special lessons for 45 minutes (10 rides) at Shs320, 000 and photoshoot for 15 minutes at Shs80, 000

Boat Rides at The Marina

The beauty of the two sister resort hotels is enhanced by the proximity of the beautiful Lake Victoria. On the side of the five-star accommodation, conference facilities, restaurants and bars, the resorts boost of some of the liveliest aqua-sport beefed by different boats for boat rides.

While at Speke Resort you can enjoy canoe water safari including a 30 minutes canoe ride at Shs40, 000, a 1-hour canoe ride at Shs80, 000 and a 1-hour harrier ride at Shs330, 000.

If the canoes don’t offer you the extreme thrill you want, the speed boats are available. You can choose a formula speed boat ride for 1 hour at only $240 or the proline speed boat for 1 hour at $240.

Fishing Trips

 Fishing on the calm waters of Lake Victoria is an adventure that you should refresh and calm any mind that is has been busy making important decisions. The silence as the hooks laylow with their baits can be the moment you need to think straight.

You can hire a canoe to go fishing for 4 hours at a cost of Shs235, 000 or 8 hours for Shs380, 000. You can also opt for the high-powered canoe for 6 hours at Shs500, 000 and or the proline speed boat for 1 hour at $240.

Weekend Accommodation Special

The two resort hotels are also offering good deals on accommodation on weekends – Saturday and Sunday.

At Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort, you can spend the night in the Executive Room (2 guests) on full board at Shs987, 000; bed and breakfast at Shs793, 950; room only at Shs671, 500.

The Executive Suite (2 guests) full board is at Shs1, 722, 200; bed and breakfast is at Shs1, 477, 300 and room only at Shs1, 279, 800. The Presidential Suite (4 guests) full board is at Shs2, 701, 800; bed and breakfast at Shs2, 263, 350 and room only at Shs1, 967, 100.

At Speke resort, the Deluxe Single Room (1 guest) full board is at Shs549, 050; bed and breakfast is at Shs474, 000 and room only is at Shs398, 950. The Deluxe Double Room (2 guests) full board is at Shs742, 600; bed and breakfast is at Shs588, 550 and room only is at Shs450, 300.

The One Bedroom Suite (2 guests) full board is at Shs742, 600; bed and breakfast is at Shs588, 550 and room only is at Shs450, 300. The Superior Room (2 guests) full board is at Shs987, 500; bed and breakfast is at Shs793, 950 and room only is at 617, 500.

The Presidential Cottage (4 guests) full board is at Shs1, 967, 500; bed and breakfast is at Shs1, 599, 750 and room alone is at Shs1, 378, 550.

Spend A Million

You can win free pony rides for children if you spend Shs1m at Nyanja and Lake Terrace restaurants.

Dad's Day Out

You can take your dad out on Father's Day at Speke Resort and Munyonyo Commonwealth Resort. And while there, if you spend Shs450, 000 at Lake Terrace or Nyanja Restaurant, you get complimentary lake shore fishing for the family, complimentary pony rides for the kid on the same day of visiting the resort. You also get complimentary glasses of wine.

COVID-19 Pandemic Is Threating Access To Electricity

By Edwin Mumbere

The corona epidemic has been here for a few months but it has created a great impact on the access of some essential services like medical care, clean and renewable energy among others.

This has not only affected the end user but it has also affected the revenue of many governments which were getting taxes from the solar companies that were vending their solar products to the low income earners and the fallout from COVID-19 could derail efforts to meet a global goal to provide power to everyone on the planet by 2030, agencies warn.

One in 10 people lack electricity and the pandemic will likely make it harder still to meet a global goal of getting power to everyone by 2030, international organisations said on Thursday.

An annual report tracking progress on sustainable energy said more than a billion people have won access to electricity since 2010, with 90% of the planet connected in 2018.

But that still left 789 million people without power.

And even before the outbreak of COVID-19 threw up new obstacles, the report estimated 620 million people would remain without electricity in 2030, 85% of them in sub-Saharan Africa.

"Even before today's unprecedented crisis, the world was not on track to meet key sustainable energy goals. Now, they are likely to become even harder to achieve," said Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

"We must redouble our efforts to bring affordable, reliable and cleaner energy to all – especially in sub-Saharan Africa, where the need is greatest – in order to build more prosperous and resilient economies," he added in a statement.

The report said disruptions caused by coronavirus lockdowns and their economic fallout would likely affect electrification, slowing and in some cases reversing advances.

Some utilities and off-grid providers are expected to face financial difficulties, said the report from the IEA, the International Renewable Energy Agency, the U.N. Statistics Division, the World Bank and the World Health Organization.

COVID-19 has also disrupted supply chains and limited the ability of many to pay for their services, it added.

"Governments, hand in hand with the international community, should be prepared to mitigate these adverse effects to safeguard the gains in (electricity) access," it said.

The crisis has shown the need for reliable and clean energy at hospitals, for schools to prepare children for the digital economy, and for communities to pump clean water, it added.

"Access to reliable energy is a lifeline, especially in the context of the COVID-19 crisis," said Riccardo Puliti, global director for energy and extractive industries at the World Bank.

"It is essential not only for preventing and addressing the pandemic but also for accelerating the recovery and building back better," he added.

The report showed that efforts to provide poor families, especially in rural communities, with cleaner cooking methods continued to stagnate, despite gains in large parts of Asia.

In 2018, 2.8 billon people were cooking with smoky fuels like kerosene, coal and wood, compared with 3 billion in 2010.

Under current and planned policies, 2.3 billion people would still not be using clean cooking fuels and technologies in 2030, falling short of a goal for universal access by almost 30%.

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to worsen the exposure of women and children to air pollution at home, which already causes close to 4 million deaths a year, the report warned.

International aid to developing countries in support of clean and renewable energy hit $21.4 billion in 2017, double its level in 2010, but only 12% reached the least-developed countries and small island developing states, it said.

Therefore ,to speed up deployment of renewable energy in those places, larger amounts of funding should be channelled to those most in need even more so in a post-pandemic world and it is at this point that our governments need to look at the post COVID planning and include renewable energy so that we can slowly archive our economic glory.

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