Eugénie Eyeang is Lecturer in Didactics of Languages at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Libreville and director of the Centre for Applied Research in the Arts and Languages (CRAAL) She took an active part in the first Congress of African Hispanic Women organized by the Women for Africa Foundation in 2014 in Abidjan.
She presents an interesting study on how to organize teaching in times of lockdown.
From TICE Gabon (WhatsApp) to ENUGA (ecolnumerique.moodlecloud.com)
The global coronavirus pandemic has changed the lives of thousands of people around the world. Their customs and habits are no longer the same. Sociological relationships have changed. The world of education is almost unemployed, from kindergarten to higher; since governments decided to close schools, institutes and universities. This situation has caused additional stress in the world of education and school administration since solutions must be found to ensure pedagogical continuity. This is what prompted us to create a group of exchanges by WhatsApp with teachers interested in digital activities, and wishing to develop them first for themselves, during this period of confinement.
In Gabon, most educational activities are carried out face-to-face. Distance or online training is poorly developed. There are structures such as FUNIBER (Ibero-American University Foundation), AUF (Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie) or SKILLS (Higher School) specializing in online training. But faced with the COVID19 health crisis, there is no modus operandi planned to ensure educational continuity. However, students cannot stay at home without doing anything, while waiting for the “end of the nightmare”. The first to offer online platforms are private schools and institutes, in which the French lycée Blaise Pascal. At the start, the parents of the students of this high school received messages by Whatsapp which stipulated that the children will receive homework and take lessons via ZOOM, Google Meet, TeamLink, etc. To effectively follow these lessons, parents had to have some computer skills, have a home Internet connection (of good quality), have computers or smartphones.
While parents (teachers from the École Normale Supérieure or universities) share these experiences with their children, they also wonder how to solve the problem of digital illiteracy that is theirs. During the same period, being part of a WhatsApp group bringing together African researchers, we felt the need to create a specific group for the exchange of information related to distance learning. This is how the WhatsApp TICE Africa group was created, with the help of colleague Ana Gainza (Public University of Navarre, UPNA) on March 25, 2020, who, from Navarre, continues his courses at a distance, despite the pandemic. The aim is to share digital experiences and provide help to those who have difficulties in this area. In each African country, the ministerial authorities for national education and higher education plead for pedagogical continuity through different media (TV, Radio, Internet, etc.).
Edified by all this information, I decided to create the WhatsApp group “TICE Gabon” in Gabon, which was followed by the creation of a distance learning platform (ENUGA: ecolnumerique.moodlecloud.com). We started with volunteers, that is, teacher-researchers and others from various disciplines from universities, colleges and inspectors from primary schools. Then we integrate specialists from TICE.
The global health crisis caused by the coronavirus has as a consequence today the decision of containment and the taking of drastic measures by the States around the world: closing of the air, land and maritime borders, closings of certain companies, the stop of some jobs, and finally the closure of schools. But as French Minister of Education Jean Michel Blanquer said, “the schools are closed, but the classes are continuing.” Educational continuity must therefore be ensured through online education. It is also the position of the Gabonese authorities who in a circular of March 16, 2020 invited teachers to reflect on strategies that can avoid a sleepless year. However, in education, from primary to higher education, opinions are divided, since the very term “online education” remains very vague.
Our recent surveys of students and teachers show that 2 out of 10 students have 1 computer and 1 student has a computer and an internet connection at home. On the teachers’ side, if 6 out of 10 have personal computers, only 3 have an internet connection at home. Under these conditions, what to do to validate this academic and school year 2019-2020? How to set up online education in Gabon and with what supports?
I will share here the actions carried out and the questions asked by the members of the group in the exchanges by WhatsApp and Skype.
5.Production of capsules…
We continue to work and take advantage of the confinement times to improve our use of these new technologies. We thank our colleagues Maurice N. Engohan, Anasthasie Obono M. (ENS, Libreville), Mireille Essono E. (ENS, Libreville) and Raymonde Moussavou (ENS, Libreville) and others (UOB: Omar Bongo University, Libreville; CPP : Center for pedagogical improvement, Libreville, Dakar, etc.), for training and setting up arrangements and the production of “explanatory capsules” to facilitate understanding of the processes. Some colleagues already teach distance courses, based on the basics that we have given and can share with others, this experience of TICE Gabon and ENUGA. In addition, a report will be published and a collective work coordinated by Anasthasie Obono M. and Robert Angoué N. is in progress. This is the modest contribution we can make to institutions or colleagues, collectively or individually, during this period of health crisis linked to the coronavirus covid 19.