By Momodou Jarju
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 of the UTG during the Covid-19 pandemic, to limit lessons that might be lost during this trying times.
Officials from both Government through aforementioned Ministries and the UTG, said over five million dalasi (D5, 960, 140.00) was spent in facilitating the alternative learning method.
The information was disclosed at a press conference held on Tuesday April 14th 2020 at the MoHERST Conference Hall in Bijilo.
Ousainou Corr, the UTG Director of Finance said the total amount includes megabytes for students, additional laptops and data sim-cards for adjunct and other lecturers. Corr further said the amount spent on additional laptops and data Sims for adjunct and other lecturers, amounts to D3, 861, 160. 00.
According to Mod AK Secka, Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Higher Education, Research, Science and Technology (MoHERST), Government pays D70 per student whilst the UTG Management pays D140 to each student per month; that thus D210 is paid per student for free megabytes. Secka said the initiative will ensure students do not miss a semester or a year as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic; that they have negotiated with the GSM Operators such as Africell, Qcell and Gamcel, in order for them to provide free access to internet for students “in terms of getting Google plus, so that lectures and other materials can be posted on the Google Class and then students can follow.” That this was a co-negotiation between MoHERST and Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs with the above mentioned GSM Operators; that in addition, they have catered some megabytes for students to conduct private research.
“The arrangement is such that all other institutions such as MDI, GTTI as well as the Gambia College, can benefit from this arrangement. It is just that the UTG has gone in advance and they are almost ready to use it. But the others can benefit from this kind of arrangement,” he said.
Vice Chancellor of the UTG Prof. Dr. Faqir Muhammad Anjum, said when Government proclaimed a State of Public Emergency, the Management of the UTG constituted a task force to look into the possibilities of starting online classes.
Professor Pierre Gomez, the Dean, School of Arts and Sciences, said the management decided to come up with an alternative method of teaching in respond to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Prof. Gomez said a Task Force was constituted which he headed to look into possibilities of online classes; that they have now finalized the logistics to come up with Google Online Classes which would have live lessons and will avail students the opportunity to ask questions.
“On top of that, it is recorded. So those who missed the class will have the opportunity to watch the video again and even those who attended the class will have the opportunity to go through the video over and over again, to have a general understanding,” he said; that the online lectures are free of charge and students would now have access to Google Suite for the Google Classrooms free of charge unlimitedly.
“We have already sent their details to GSM Operators so that all the registered students can have access to it without problems,” he said; that Government and the Management of the UTG will provide 1, 500 megabytes to each student for private research, while the lecturers too will have data cards to have unlimited access to the internet.
“For the time being, what is planned is for the exams to be interfaced around June-July as per the revised calendar,” he said; that by then, all would have settled down.
Prof Gomez said they are cognizant of the quality of the system being used and they have to make sure that they follow best practice. He added that the new system which will be rolled out next week Monday, was tested and it worked well.
Juldeh Ceesay, Deputy Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Finance and Economic Affairs said as far as they are concerned, they have already supported the process which will last for three months; that before the three months’ elapses, the pandemic will vanish.
She assured her Ministry’s continuous support to Gambian students studying abroad saying they have catered funding for their feeding and tuition fees; that a list has been prepared by MoHERST and funds will be provided for those students studying abroad; that they are also looking at supporting private students studying abroad by working with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on these statistics to make sure these students are supported.
Ceesay however clarified that self-sponsored students abroad, will be supported with feeding and not tuition fees.