#National News

Covid-19: University students lament struggle in accessing effective classes Student claims that online class affects her mental health

May 27, 2021, 12:18 PM | Article By: Isatou Ceesay-Bah

Aside fatalities and the negative impact it has had on world economies, the global corona virus pandemic also had an overwhelming impact on many sectors including the country’s education sector.

During the pandemic, hundreds of students struggled on daily basis to follow lectures online sometimes under difficult circumstances. Internet connectivity in the country could sometimes be frustrating.  While others attend online lectures regularly, some had to endure difficult circumstances to follow online classes due to the high-cost and poor internet services in the country.

Lecturers and even students agreed that online classes are something new to the students and as such it cannot be compared to physical lectures, where interaction is more interesting as alluded to by some university students. This, according to some, is even affecting students’ right to effective education.

Media report has it that since April 2020, officials of the Ministries of Higher Education and Finance together with the Management of the University of The Gambia (UTG) have facilitated online classes for students at the UTG as a safety move to limit lessons that might be lost amid corona virus pandemic.

Officials from the aforementioned Ministries and the UTG, said over five million dalasis (D5, 960, 140.00) was spent in facilitating the alternative learning method. This total amount includes megabytes for students, additional laptops and data sim-cards for adjunct and other lecturers. The amount spent on additional laptops and data Sims for adjunct and other lecturers, amounts to D3, 861, 160. 00.

Despite these, students admitted that the online classes are no match to the physical lectures which make life easier for them.

Plight of a student who claims online class affects her mental health

Fatoumata Sanneh, is a third-year student of the University of The Gambia majoring in Political Science. For her, the pandemic didn’t stop University students from attending lectures, but the online classes have been so stressful one, which she feels has disturbed her mental health.

 She said Universities should not be charging students for extensions needed as a result of a global pandemic. This, she added, will result in significant financial and psychological strain for a lot of us students.

According to her, it causes her anxiety, chronic migraines, depression, nervousness and the feeling of failure that she has is more frustrating with deadlines attached to assignments.

She recounted that the pandemic has taught her that healing may be the most important prerequisite at the University, and that she is glad that the Student Union has provided a support group for students from the psychology department.

Other students explain their plight

Different students, acknowledging the pandemic has not only changed the way people interact, but even the right to education, have decried these kinds of experiences.

Jariatou Kandeh is a first-year student majoring in Developmental Studies at the UTG. For her the online lectures are not that effective as the physical lectures where students can communicate with the lectures effectively.

Unlike physical lectures where students and teachers interact during lectures, online lectures tend to be less interactive and sometimes there is breakdown in internet and even communication especially when students want to ask questions or contribute to class discussions.

“Data is the also a very big problem. Sometimes you register your sim-card with the GSM operators for data and you will never get it and we can’t afford to buy data for two and a half hour lectures. So, some of us in our neighborhoods connect to families who have Wi-Fi in their homes.” she explains

A third-year student at the School of Arts and Sciences, who preferred anonymity, disclosed that since the start of the online classes amid the pandemic, students started experiencing challenges on how to manage the means of conducting classes (Google meet). However, the network hitches contributed a lot because the classes weren't as effective as expected.

Rohey Jadama, a final year Development Studies student, also recounted similar experience doing online classes.

“My experience with Covid-19 has 'bittersweet’. I’m not able to access the Internet due to poor connection.” This, she added has made her participation in class very minimal, saying the University of The Gambia usually sends megabytes to students for monthly online classes.

She however claimed to have received hers only once. “I made follow up about the megabytes but to no avail. I had to use my own money to buy credit and attend online lectures which were very expensive for me.”

She explained that she has been faced with social barriers such as being overwhelmed with household chores and taking care of her baby. For Rohey, the pandemic has made her University lectures a nightmare.

For Fatou Sanyang, she loves interacting during lessons with her lecturers and course mates with the physical lectures. The final year student in Journalism and Digital Media noted that online classes limit interaction and deter many from asking relevant questions during lectures.

 Dr Adekunle, a Research Methods, Development Communication, Vocabulary Development lecturer explained that Covid-19 forced them to resort to online classes for safety reasons.

However, she noted that online classes come along with some corresponding costs. From electricity charges to poor internet connectivity, theseare some challenges that make it so boring.

“There are instances were some students will sign in but are not really in attendance. The lecturer may discover she is talking to an empty class. It is bit difficult with the online classes to monitor student’s participation, but a lecture can demand that students switch on their videos or make the class interactive by asking questions from time to time that students need to answer. Scoring class participation is another way to ensure that students are actually in class.”

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