About two months ago, Strathmore University had been cleared as the only institution of higher learning ready to resume face to face learning by the Ministry of Education. According to the CS Prof. George Magoha, the Madaraka based institution was the only one with required measures put in place to combat the spread of Coronavirus which had already been declared a pandemic in the world.
Though the government changed its plan to order re-opening of higher learning institutions by September this year, Strathmore University still had a chance to continue with their learning virtually and have had their academic calendar smoothly running. This is majorly due to a mix of culture and tradition of embracing technology at the institution and a major boost in terms of access to resources by top telecommunications firm, Safaricom PLC.
Strathmore University have had an inventive spirit all along. Therefore, though they obliged to the government’s call to suspend on-site learning and activities, the vice-chancellor designate Vincent Ogutu told a local publication that research, strategic planning and action within their own iLabAfrica were their main areas of survival.
Therefore, when face to face teaching was halted, remote teaching and learning through online platforms became the default solution. The institution fortunately had already set up an emergency response team to start planning for execution of remote teaching and learning programmes.
The institution had no challenge in addressing learners’ needs since all students are provided with laptops at admission in the first year. They therefore, all had gadgets to access online learning platforms developed by the university.
Safaricom Data Bundles
On data bundles, Dr. Ogutu says the university approached Safaricom and negotiated for data bundles. For good measure, they agreed on specific bundles that would be dedicated fully to academic programmes; costing Sh500 a month.
The university was able to launch remote learning in April and has had their students sit for the first set of exams.
Strathmore also continues to put about 1,700 students on scholarships amid challenges of increased costs and a drop in the number of donors who supported the scholarships. A number of donors were also affected with the pandemic.
According to the designate VC, the institution continues to receive huge number of applications for scholarships from students whose parents and guardians lost jobs.
He says that the university mentors, counsellors and chaplains have also been able to reach out to the learners who have been affected to talk to them and cheer them up.