The Covid-19 pandemic has changed the world as we know it. The same has repeatedly been said about digitization. During the lockdown and times of social distancing, the importance of digital tools has become more and more obvious. But what can we learn from the experience of the past months? What conclusion can we draw for the way we learn and communicate? Insights from digital learning in Ghana.

Learning is sharing knowledge:

“Growing up, I realized I like talking and always want to let people know what I know”, Yaw Oppong explains his motivation to work in the field of education. Oppong is a studied professional teacher (educationist), who also holds a Master of Research (Mphil) from the University of Winneba (Ghana). “Imparting my knowledge to younger ones helps me to read and learn widely”, the young politician and striving diplomat elaborates further on his motivation.

We are both currently facing the challenges of home office as we are both participating in the European Academy of Diplomacy, an international program fostering intercultural skills. This is why we met over a chat to discuss how corona has and will change the way we learn.

Digitization means discovering new methods:

We start our discussion talking about the impacts of Covid-19. We both agree that the most intrusive measure was imposing a general lockdown. Suddenly, it was not possible to meet friends and family any longer. Many activities that could be done in person had to be adapted to the unprecedented circumstances. Various aspects of social and work life had to be taken to digital channels for better or worse. Yaw agrees on that, stating that he likes hanging around with people, especially friends. Yet, in times of corona, this was not possible any longer. He realized that social media channels can be used as social tool, but also as a tool that can be used for doing real business. He argues:” I realized that things in life can be done differently instead of the normal traditional exercising duties. A lot of jobs can be done at home without necessarily going to the office or workplace.”

Especially in the field of education, the educational expert argues that e-learning had a mitigating effect on the impact of the corona measures. “I think these digital tools should also be used to supplement the traditional way of teaching and learning since it exposes students to technology and its use effectively. The skill of using technology effectively is needed in this century”, he points out.

Investment in equal access to equal chances

During the lockdown, teachers were hired by the government to lecture on public television. However, only the core subjects were covered, namely: English, Math, sciences, and social studies. What might have been quite helpful for the urban regions was not that effective in remote regions, as a lot of those areas do not provide a stable internet connection or even access to electricity. Students in those areas could not benefit from the government intervention.

“Although the intentions were good, it didn´t help the less privileged because it had widened the inequality gap”, as the young Ghanaian politician laments.

“Therefore, those programmes of remote learning should be extended, and more investment should be done in that aspect”, he demands. “However, it should be a complementary approach to the traditional learning. Massive investment should go into technological infrastructure in Ghana. All remote areas should get access to electricity and stable internet connection since this is the basic requirement that comes before the equipment”, Yaw Oppong elaborates further on the importance of digital access for everyone.

Africa is young and inventive:

Many stereotypes are revolving around the African continent. Yet the young politician from Ghana would like to emphasize: “It´s not true that Africa is poor and needy. The major problem is bad leadership. Although some countries are now experiencing good leadership to get their countries back on track, just as I observe in countries like Rwanda and Ghana.”

Especially the African history is determined by the common memory of the time of colonialism. For that reason, the striving diplomat and educational expert argues in favor of a strong African Union:” Africa has to come together strongly as one unit to compete with other major economies. Let´s look at this, the US are big and have one currency (Dollar), the European Union has one currency (Euro). How can one tiny country in Africa like Ghana or Togo compete with the US whilst even one state is bigger than the whole country of Togo. Unless Africa unites, acting as one, we will be at the weaker side. We are not poor; we have all the resources that just have to be utilized efficiently.”

In that sense, Oppong argues for more self-confidence and equal partnerships: “Africa needs partnerships with developed countries, not donors to feed us. Partnerships that gives provide a win-win situation, not donations with intentions to control us.” Foremost, he would like to see more cooperation with Europe in the field of hygiene, investment and entrepreneurial topics.

What the Covid-19 pandemic taught us

Unexpectedly, Covid-19 has offered a unique testing ground for the chances and limits of digital means. For instance, at schools in cities like Accra, Kumasi and others, kids were taught through social media channels. Parents here are able to purchase smartphones and machines for their kids as well. However, rural or remote areas had a very different experience.

Consequently, access to digital means implies more than ever access to better chances in life. Therefore, the trained teacher and educational expert Yaw Oppong would like to teach one thing: teaching how to code and how to program. He says: “Our future kids need these skills looking at where the world is moving to.”

He knows: “The youth appreciates digitization and thinks it is the way forward.” Therefore, especially after Covid-19, Yaw Oppong would like to help students in Ghana to learn, how this new technology can be used efficiently, opening up new opportunities for young people in Ghana.

An old proverb from Ghana says: “Knowledge is like a baobab tree; no one can encompass it with their hands.” Medasse Yaw Oppong for sharing your thoughts and knowledge.

Photo by afrehdo on pixabay