By Kouakep Tchaptchié Yannick, assistant, PhD, EGCIM / FSE
University of Ngaoundéré, Cameroon
In 190 countries, more than 1.5 billion learners have been impacted by the closure of schools. Refugee and school-going children were hit the hardest, as they were already only 63 % to be enrolled in primary school and 24 % in secondary. Of that number, 20 % girls are at risk of never returning to school after COVID-19. The school response in Cameroon, and especially in Ngaoundéré during confinement, was made through the media and platforms ensuring educational continuity.
Unfortunately, UNESCO estimates that "half of the world's students do not have access to a computer at home" and that "the risk of losing learning during this period [of confinement] is almost inevitable". Hence the reopening observed in nearly 90 countries.
Even if it was done more slowly in certain places and would require unprecedented precautions and means, "we must act differently, but better" by supporting teachers and learners in order to regain the trust of populations and restore the right to education to young citizens of the world. The perception of the usefulness of distance education also remains very mixed.
What educational strategies have been applied during and especially after confinement?
I was a teacher in a benchmark secondary education establishment in Adamaoua, in Terminale D2 class (life and earth sciences, physical and mathematical sciences) of the Lycée Classique de Ngaoundéré in Cameroon.
A- The strategy put in place by the Administration in agreement with the State
When returning to class, following the recommendations of the hierarchy of the Ministry of Secondary Education of Cameroon, the administration of the classical and modern high school of Ngaoundéré (LCM) divided the students of the examination levels into sub-groups forming new classes with staff respecting ministerial instructions. Only the examination classes were concerned (3rd, 1st and Terminal, approximately equivalent to 2nd cycle of secondary and CEGEP, in Quebec), with supervision groups created during confinement, followed via the WhatsApp application.
Faced with the multiplication of sub-groups of classes due to instructions on the number of students per space, there has been a strengthening of the teaching team. I was then called to teach a D Series Terminale.
It should be noted that the school canteens were closed within the school grounds and that water points with soap were created in front of the classes and at the various entrances to the establishment, with temperature tests using thermo-flashes.
Each teacher received a hydro-alcoholic gel, a mask and special instructions. These consisted of keeping a distance from the learners, speaking aloud in the mask, not moving between the benches but calling out to all the learners in order to have their effective participation in the course. The administration received the difficulties encountered and provided advice.
B- The experience of the Mathematics teacher in Terminale D2
I taught two chapters of mathematics (Probability and Statistics) in June 2020. It should be noted that many students had dropped out during confinement. Many reminders were necessary in mathematics. This was felt during the correction of the test on the local test exam. The exercises on the two chapters done after the resumption of lessons were better understood by the learners compared to those relating to the chapters seen before the resumption (any other docimological cause apart).
C- The State's overall strategy in secondary education
Those responsible for secondary education have managed the confinement period closely by emphasizing distance education. In urban areas or accessible by radio waves or the mobile telephone network / Internet, students received digital lessons through social networks, sometimes lessons on physical media, lessons in radio or television broadcasts (especially via CRTV) . This will induce, in future years, an increased work of upgrading on the part of teachers in difficult conditions since the epidemic does not seem ready to end.
The great lesson learned by the educational community from this pandemic has been to understand that “education should make us resilient to situations like the current pandemic and the climate crisis”.
The overall strategy during the lockdown has been to favor the use of remote digital platforms, broadcasts by television or radio media and social networks, and even WhatsApp.
In secondary school, course materials were also made available to learners in digital or paper form. For classes not presenting national exams (called “intermediate classes”), the Ministry of Secondary Education has decided to stop classes in March 2020 for the 2019-2020 academic year.
I foresee greater difficulty in future years in secondary education as to the handling with upgrading of students from so-called intermediate classes since the hourly volume allocated to each of the subjects may tend to decrease, in view of limited resources (teachers, classrooms, time, etc.) with groups that physically increase the number of classrooms.
In addition, school dropout is likely to worsen] in secondary education with, for example, a reduction in the number of pupils per class (see, for example, the number of 50 pupils per class selected for the entrance examination for 6th general education and 1sttime year of technical education for this year 2020-2021) and the prevailing poverty due to the slowdown in economic activity.
The state is experimenting in secondary education a remote training and review platform for his students with Zoom groups. The Baccalaureate exams for the 2021 session have seen innovations such as the cancellation of the eliminatory mark system set at 5/20 in the basic subjects of each specialty. It should be noted that private education does not really practice the part-time system with its small numbers. Only the public does it and especially for the so-called intermediate classes.
- YT. Kouakep et al. COVID-19 modeling and caution in relaxing control measures and possibilities for multi peaks in Cameroon, AAM June 2021, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342052588_COVID-19_modelling_and_caution_in_relaxing_control_measures_and_possibilities_for_multi_peaks_in_Cameroon, 2021.
- LP. Nono and TY Kouakep. Use of the WIMS environment in secondary mathematics education: training issues and perception of utility, Adjective.net, Paris-Descartes University, https://www.adjectif.net/spip/spip.php?article412, 05 December 2016.
- Unesco. COVID-19 - Education as the foundation of a just society in the post-COVID world, https://fr.unesco.org/news/covid-19-leducation-fondement-dune-societe-juste-monde-lapres-covid, 09-06-2020, consulted on June 22, 2020.
- Unesco. Build back better: after COVID-19: education must change to respond to the crisis, https://fr.unesco.org/news/reconstruire-mieux-apres-covid-19-leducation-doit-changer-repondre-crise-climatique, 26-06-2020, consulted on June 30, 2020.
- Unesco. Reopening of schools: when, where and how?, https://fr.unesco.org/news/reouverture-ecoles-quand-ou-comment, 19-05-2020, consulted on 20 May 2020.
- Unesco. COVID-19: What you need to know about refugee education, https://fr.unesco.org/news/covid-19-ce-que-vous-devez-savoir-leducation-refugies, 09-07-2020, accessed July 10, 2020.
- Vanessa Onana. Entrance examination in 6th, 50 admitted authorized per class, CRTV-NEWS, www.crtv.cm/2020/07/133523 , 08-07-2020, consulted on July 09, 2020.
Dr Kouakep Tchaptchié Yannick is currently Mathematics Assistant at the University of Ngaoundéré since January 2, 2020 and former Educational Inspector. He is also a member of the teaching team of field teacher trainers of the AIMS-TTP project of the Ministry of Secondary Education and author of several articles on mathematics didactics, a book chapter on the promotion of national languages or math work. It promotes many projects to help vulnerable students.