It will be recalled that in the Monday, 22nd June 2020 edition of CoEWJ, it was published that 2,750 Smartphones and 4,750 SD-Cards were to be distributed to trainee teachers, as part of an effort by stakeholders to ameliorate the plight of some trainees in the ongoing virtual learning. CoEWJ can confirm that the smartphones and SD-Cards which were expected to be delivered to all the 46 public Colleges of Education today, Monday 13th July 2020 will not happen as planned due to a delay in shipment of the items by the supplier.
Officials have however assured the News Desk that the phones will arrive in due time to be distributed to the Colleges and onward distribution to students to aid them in their virtual lessons.
Following the closure of schools in March 2020 by the President of the Republic of Ghana due to the outbreak of the Novel COVID-19, the T-TEL programme under the leadership of Mr. Robin Todd, and in partnership with the National Council for Tertiary Education (NCTE) set up a task force as a support and advisory group for the rollout of Virtual Learning in all the 46 public Colleges of Education in the Country.
The Virtual Learning Taskforce led by Dr. Sam Awuku, who doubles as T-TEL Key Adviser on Policy, Leadership, Institutional Development, and Communications, had series of meetings with all major stakeholders associated with Colleges of Education. Some of these stakeholders included the five mentoring universities thus; the University of Cape Coast, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, the University of Education, Winneba, University of Ghana and University for Development Studies, all Principals (PRINCOF), CETAG and CENTSAG National Executives, and TTAG National officers.
These meetings were very useful in identifying the needs of the Colleges in supporting the Emergency Remote Teaching and Learning (ERTL). Also, a fundamental question that emerged during the meetings was “how to ensure that no learner is excluded from the ERTL – thus how to reach the unreachable?”. These hard-to-reach student teachers, according to the stakeholders were mainly faced with the challenge of not having an appropriate device to participate in the lesson and/or are out of internet coverage areas. Working with TTAG, various options were discussed including; sending hard copies of learning materials to such students through agreeable means. One option that TTAG was unequivocal about was the request for the Colleges to support needy students with smartphones. This, the Virtual Learning Taskforce saw as imperative and contingent to the success of the virtual learning. In pursuance to that, Colleges were asked to compile a list of students in need of the phones. A couple of days after this meeting, MasterCard Foundation released a call as part of their COVID-19 response. T-TEL and NCTE worked with TTAG to develop the initial concept for the MasterCard call and eventually the proposal. MasterCard has since approved the proposal and signed the contract.
Importantly, the Virtual Learning Taskforce was very much aware that when it comes to technology use in education for learning, there already exists a huge divide between the haves and have-nots and COVID-19 has a huge potential to widen that gap. The task force, therefore, resolved that proactivity is needed to interrupt this inequality and re-envisioned the opportunities provided by the school closure as a means of creating a more socially just platform for all student teachers to continue to learn irrespective of their location and ability.
The MasterCard Foundation Support
On Tuesday, 9th June 2020 Mott MacDonald Ltd signed a contract with the Mastercard Foundation to the value of $719,250 to enable T-TEL to work in partnership with NCTE to ensure that as many student teachers as possible can benefit from virtual learning conducted by Colleges of Education. The Mastercard Foundation funding will be used to purchase 2,750 smartphones and 4,750 SD cards loaded with B.Ed. curriculum materials. Each smartphone will come with an SD card loaded with curriculum materials for student teachers who do not currently have a device. The remaining 2,000 SD cards will be provided to student teachers who have devices but who live outside of the network coverage area, meaning that they can now access all materials without having to download them.
The News Desk can confirm that the smartphones are Huawei Y7 Pro with a storage capacity of 4GB RAM and 64GB.
The smartphones and SD cards will be distributed to Colleges of Education by mid – July and made available to student teachers on a hire purchase basis at a subsidised price of GHC400 for a smartphone and SD card and GHC50 for the SD card only. Student teachers will agree with their College so that they repay these funds over 12 months. Each College of Education will receive at least 50 smartphones, meaning that they will each be able to recover at least GHC20,000 through the hire purchase scheme. These repaid amounts will then be used to create a College of Education e-Learning Fund which each College can use, with permission of NCTE, to promote e-Learning on their campus. A call for tender advert was published on Wednesday, June 10, 2020, in the Daily Graphic and on www.t-tel.org/virtuallearning. Since then, the deadline of June 16,2020, has passed and evaluation of the bid and provisional selection of supplier(s) have been undertaken and selected suppliers notified. Due diligence checks on provisionally selected Supplier(s) will be conducted from 20th to 28th of June, 2020, and contract signed with confirmed supplier by 29th June, 2020. The supplier will complete the delivery of devices to Colleges of Education by 13th July 2020.
Also, part of the Mastercard Foundation grant will be used to establish a College eLearning Fund. Some Colleges of Education are struggling to deliver virtual lessons because of the weakness of their Wi-Fi connections on campus. Colleges of Education who suffer from connectivity issues will work with NCTE’s technical experts to submit a proposal to the eLearning Fund which, if approved by NCTE and T-TEL, would enable each College of Education to rapidly upgrade their Wi-Fi connectivity. An amount of $10,000 will be made available to each College of Education under this arrangement to ensure that they work with NCTE to develop solutions that are affordable and, most importantly, can be sustained by the Colleges from their resources. A further $20,000 of the MasterCard Foundation grant will be made available to support visually impaired and hearing-impaired student teachers (in addition to the £20,000 recently contributed by DFID) by enabling NJA College of Education, Wa, Presbyterian College of Education, Akropong and Wesley College of Education, Kumasi to purchase essential equipment and materials to upgrade their resource centres. Finally, $20,000 will also be available to conduct a communications campaign that will focus on building awareness and support amongst groups such as student teachers and parents where opposition or lack of accurate knowledge could inhibit virtual learning efforts.
Technical Support to Colleges
The NCTE–T-TEL Virtual Learning Taskforce has a cadre of 19 Troubleshooters who are providing professional development and technical support to all the 46 public Colleges of Education. Each College of Education zone has been assigned some Troubleshooters for this purpose. These experts were selected from the Colleges of Education and went through a 4-week peer learning sessions on the use of Telegram, Google Classroom, and YouTube as teaching and learning tools before their deployment.
Source: News Desk, Colleges of Education Weekly Journal.