An ICT Strategy Based upon E-Teaching and E-Learning in Response to the COVID-19 Crisis in Africa
Paul L. Woomer
Welissa M. Mulei
Samuel K. Maina
International Institute of Tropical Agriculture, Kenya, Africa
The COVID-19 pandemic is a crisis that has gripped the world, causing governments and development agencies to search for critical measures to protect their people. The situation not only represents a significant health risk but has resulted in school closures that have disrupted agricultural education. This impedes the attainment of Africa’s larger food security and rural transformation agendas. Six months before the advent of the pandemic, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture initiated a pilot project, Start Them Early Program (STEP) whose goal is to reinforce pathways to careers in agriculture within secondary schools in DR Congo, Kenya, and Nigeria. The project has now been forced to rethink its approach while embracing information and communication technologies due to the school closures. This paper describes the process involved in that operational pivot, particularly concerning the shift from electronic teaching by instructors towards distance electronic learning by students. Key issues addressed are the consolidation of digital applications, development of a mobile-based toolbox for use by young farmers, and constraints to device ownership. The means of addressing these concerns through working with instructors and their larger school systems are explained. Action points and resources that are recommended include the distribution of upgraded instructor workstations, a listing of relevant software applications, and the design of a mobile-based all-in-one toolkit for agriculture students and young farmers. The latter two developments have wider application in the reform of agricultural extension amongst the tech-savvy youth taking up agribusiness.
Keywords: agricultural transformation; COVID-19 response; digital agriculture; distance education; STEP program
Acknowledgments: This strategy was conducted as a component of the Start Them Early Program (STEP) International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), an activity originally envisaged by its Director-General, Dr. Nteranya Sanginga, and supported by grants obtained from the International Development Research Center (Canada) and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA). The STEP Kenya team consisting of Lorraine Mutinda, Maryfaith Simiyu, Felix Kiprono, and Phillip Kioko, and STEP ICT team consisting of Christophe Byake (DR Congo), and Bekee Barivure (Nigeria) prepared an earlier internal document that described available ICT applications featured in this report. Exchanges were conducted with Dr. Jemimah Njuki (IDRC), Dr. Mpoko Bokanga (IITA), and Adedayo Adefioye (STEP Coordinator) concerning a project “pivot” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. The authors thank all these persons and their departments and organizations for their respective contributions.