Interview with Lexie Wambui
We are clear by now that the pandemic has brought about many changes to the way we behave, go about our businesses, travel, interact with each other and even education.
The school curriculum in Kenya faced major disruption which resulted in ‘losing’ almost one year of learning. Online studies were not an option to many due to limited resources and lack of necessary infrastructure in the rural areas but frankly the urban dwellers were not spared.
When schools resumed, the Ministry of Education was keen to ensure that nothing ‘was lost’. The result was condensing the syllabus in order to go back to a ‘normal’ school calendar, which begins from January to December. Due to this, a crash program of sorts was quickly concocted to cover work that should have taken a year to cover and condense it to a few months. This affects both primary and secondary schools. There has been concern from teachers, parents and the students on the mental and social wellbeing of all parties involved.
For the parents, there has been financial implications because the school terms are back to back. A normal year has three school terms but this year, for example, has four terms. Teachers too face a big challenge of covering the syllabus in a shorter time and without the usual breaks much needed for their rest.
I have had the privilege of enrolling our daughter to university during this pandemic season. I realised that university learning has not been spared. My daughter has not had much experience of face to face learning and has spent most of her two years of university days in front of a screen. As I compared her learning to mine, I felt sorry for her since she is missing out on the social elements in particular. However, she has not missed learning due to the online platforms offered to the students. I thought of getting her views on her experiences and this is what she had to say.
When did you join university and how has being in university been for you?
I joined in the peak of the pandemic, July 2020. University has been tough. Most of my learning has been online and it is a bit hard to concentrate. There are many distractions, from Netflix to Tiktok, not to mention the fridge. Online learning has worked but has not been pleasant for me. I know I’d be at a much better place academic-wise if it were physical learning.
Most kids look forward to completing their high school studies so that they can be ‘independent’ of their parents / guardians. How has this journey been for you?
Honestly not much difference for me. A little bit of freedom here and there. I still live at home, so I haven’t felt that freedom. I have a curfew, and there are rules to abide by. I struggle with that especially because I feel so restrained at times on the amount of time I can spend with my friends and do my own things. So it’s been a real problem for me. I’m still hoping to move out for at least a semester before I complete my studies in order to experience the real campus life i.e. away from home, my parents, curfew and rules. Please note: my intentions are not to misbehave, but just to experience being away from home. (At this point, I don’t know whether this is a political answer, but I choose to believe what my daughter says).
What are you happy about in this season?
I am happy about having real and meaningful relationships with people by my side; my family and friends. I am so happy to have them in my life. They have continued to correct and advice me and share joyful moments with me. I am in a good space socially.
What are some of the challenges you have experienced studying online or having a hybrid?
Most of my learning has been online. The biggest challenge has been concentration. I am better off with in-person learning. I have not been able to focus much while reading from home.
What are the distractions you face when studying at home/online?
Netflix, Tiktok and other social platforms. Food has also been easily and readily available. There are just so many distractions, including the people at home. The bed too has been a challenge. You wake up five minutes to class, and at times attend your class in bed! It has been a real struggle.
Do you have or have you faced any fears as a result of the pandemic in respect to your studies? (FOMO[fear of missing out] on campus life, effect of disease, future of studies/career)
Yes, I have my fears. I feel like I have not had the full campus experience and being able to join clubs, go for social events in school mainly because learning has been online. We did not have a proper orientation to be advised on what societies and clubs to join. I feel like I have also missed out on the social interactions with my course-mates.
Does the presence of your parents at home interfere, influence or otherwise impact your studies?
No, the presence of my parents doesn’t really affect me. When it comes to working, they respect my time and space and give me resources I need to do my work. The only thing that I would say I have a problem with is working and learning from the same environment the past two years alone since it is online. There’s that aspect of learning with your classmates physically that lacks when you’re learning from home.
What would be one thing you’d change since the pandemic took place?
I would change the learning from home aspect. I wish I had started my university with physical learning because my grades would be way higher than they are right now. The learning concentration over the semesters went down. And it is evident in my performance over during the same period. When we did hybrid classes (online and physical), my performance improved that semester since the concentration was higher.
Social connections play a big role of a student while in university. How has this been for you?
That’s the funny thing. I know most people’s names but I can’t put any faces to the names since we didn’t really meet. I only know a handful of my classmates. Social connections have been low on my end especially since I am not very chatty on text and many people formed connections via social media. So, forming connections with some of my classmates has been tricky.
What would you tell your fellow students in this season?
I would tell them not to lose hope with the current state of affairs. You can still be involved in school even if you’re learning from home. Let us not lose hope and continue pushing on until this pandemic leaves us. Let us deal with our situation the best way we can and do great things with ourselves.
Picture by Katerina Holmes courtesy of Pexels.com