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Learning online during the pandemic in the UK and Nigeria

We invited leaders and students from our partner programmes in Nigeria and the UK to share their experiences of teaching and learning online during the pandemic. 

The past year has shown the importance of digital access across our programmes around the world. We invited leaders and students from Nigeria and the UK to share their first-hand experiences of teaching and learning online during the pandemic.

Despite the challenges, our local partners are finding innovative solutions continue delivering classes and mentoring online. Messaging apps have become online classrooms, data and technology have been given to students when possible and workshops are now being delivered online.

A recording of the session is available to watch on-demand below:

The challenges of moving learning online

For Christina, ESOL tutor at the Baytree Centre in the UK and Vivian, lecturer at Wavecrest College of Hospitality in Nigeria, the first challenge to tackle was the lack of technology. “Most of the students do not even have a phone to use. It’s a huge struggle for them to attend classes and undertake their assignments”, Vivian explained.

Christina faced similar challenges in the UK, many of her students did not have an internet connection at home, or access to a computer. Other students struggled to continue learning online because they have low levels of literacy and digital skills.

These parallel experiences of teachers and students in the UK and Nigeria emphasises the fact that lack of connectivity is truly a global issue. For Vivian, “the pandemic has shown us that women are truly disconnected and that we urgently need to get them connected”.

There is still a significant gender gap in internet mobile usage: globally, women are 37% less likely to use mobile internet than men. This means that women have less access to books, emails to connect with peers and online learning tools. Specifically, in Nigeria, there is a 29% gender internet gap, which is a critical issue for women.

What opportunities can online learning open up for women and girls?

Despite the challenge, teachers at the Baytree Centre and Wavecrest College of Hospitality have found innovative solutions to continue delivering classes online. They found that since most students already used WhatsApp to chat with family and friends, it was the most accessible way to teach during the pandemic.

“Wavecrest came up with a plan very quickly, we were so grateful”, Marycynthia, a student at Wavecrest College of Hospitality explained. Although learning and teaching remotely through WhatsApp was difficult at first, both students and teachers agree that it has also been a positive experience.

For Esther, another student of Wavecrest College of Hospitality, the flexibility of online learning means that she can study more efficiently. In Lagos, Esther explained road traffic is so heavy that she and other students have to travel for hours every day to attend classes. In Esther’s opinion, “online learning is better than having to travel for long hours each day.’’

The students at Baytree Centre have had a similar experience. As they passed the initial hurdles of learning online and became more familiar with WhatsApp classes, their experience became more positive. Some women have found it easier to balance their online studies with childcare and work commitments as they can learn at a convenient time for them.

Moving to online learning during the pandemic has been an eye opener for teachers and students alike. “It has been a huge learning curve for us and the students”, Vivian said. Mobile technology is the building block for new ways of delivering education and can help us adapt to difficult situation. But it is clear that serious issues around women’s connectivity need to be addressed, to ensure everyone has equal access and can benefit from the multitude of services available online. 

If you would like to support our work in breaking down the digital gender divide and give women and girls access to the technology and data they need to thrive, please make a donation. A donation of £25 can cover the monthly cost of internet data for 25 young women in Nigeria. No matter how big or small, your contribution will help make a difference to the lives of women and girls around the world.

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