I am a recent graduate, and I am fortunate to say that I had a fairly easy ride throughout my four years of university. We paid my school fee in time, I attended my classes without any worries, and my parents and siblings got to attend my graduation, and there was a celebration afterward. I even got to open the gifts and cut the cake. Unfortunately, however, I cannot say that for some of my friends.
There are some that I found in school whom I joined with and others who had been left behind. Are you wondering why? It is because the education system can be unkind to the less fortunate. When the pandemic had forced the closing of all institutions of higher learning, learning had to be taken online. Before the pandemic, at the very least, students did not have to worry about the internet as much because they could count on the fact that they still had physical attendance classes. And even when it came to research and completion of assignments, students had access to the internet provided by the school or university to finish their assignments. Classes being moved online became an added expense to students who depended on the financial relief offered by the institutions in terms of affordable housing, medical cover, and meal plans.
The Inclusive Internet Rankings has Kenya listed as 64th in the world and 3rd in Africa with a penetration of 87%. Yes, Kenya has a high internet penetration, and internet charges are relatively affordable, but not so affordable to have three- 3-hour classes a day for five days a week for someone struggling to stay in school. Many students, especially those from humble backgrounds, do not have the tools and resources needed for online learning, such as a laptop or internet plan/bundle. These tools and resources are a luxury that many of my peers cannot afford. So I ask, what is the point of having online classes when it will only cater to well-off students, leaving so many others behind? There is a huge divide between the haves and have nots of our society that needs to be addressed to make online higher learning more inclusive for all learners, especially now that the pandemic has altered our ways of education forever.
It is unfortunate to listen and imagine the hoops my peers have to go through to realize their simpler dreams of graduating and growing in their careers. Clearly, the policymakers need to bring inclusive reforms to ensure that my peers do not struggle to stay in school. Students need to have all tools necessary to make learning effective for them. Alleviate the burden that students in this space have to carry on a day-to-day basis. From the stories that my friends have shared with me, education is their way out of their current situations. They are their family’s hope. It’s their way of ensuring that their siblings would get a good education. Their way to ensuring their families have more than just the basic needs—a better life.