BLANTYRE, Malawi-A number of universities in Malawi are switching to online learning due to a severe second wave of COVID-19, which has disturbed most social gatherings in the country.

The Polytechnic, a college that is part of the University of Malawi, has recently introduced a remote teaching and learning system for all students that allows lecturers to deliver their class modules online.

The process of implementing it began with the consultation of key stakeholders on how best the college could resume studies in line with dangers associated with COVID-19, the college said.

Nomsa Zimba, 22, a student at the college, said the new system is much better than normal class learning because it allows students to follow the lessons at their own convenience.

“For months we have been worrying about whether our schools will be opened or not. Furthermore, opening schools added more anxiety to us considering the fact that social gatherings risk exposing everyone to COVID-19. With this new learning system, both students and teachers are at ease knowing that there is less risk.”

On Jan 12 President Lazarus Chakwera declared a state of national disaster following the rise of COVID-19 cases, and many educational institutions were closed to ease the situation.

Kamanga, a parent of two college students, said online learning will affect her finances. Internet use in Malawi is very expensive, which will limit most students’ participation in online lessons, she said, so during the pandemic internet service providers need to help students by reducing their charges.

Internet bundles

“It will be very hard for me to provide internet bundles for my children on top of fees I am already struggling to pay for them. I believe the government can intervene to ensure that almost every student wanting to access the internet for education can do so.”

Despite the high internet costs, many students have welcomed the shift to online learning. This will help them progress with their studies rather than them sitting at home waiting for the pandemic to end and resuming classes, they say.

Malawi, with a population of 19.4 million, had 23,497 confirmed cases of COVID-19 by Sunday, including 687 deaths.