June 30, 2021 | Wednesday
The pandemic revealed that most countries’ educational systems were largely unprepared to ensure the continuity of an inclusive education for all. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the world was confronting difficulties in ensuring education as a basic human right to all children (UN, 2020). The pandemic led to deeper problems for global education, by putting around “1.53 billion students out of schools,” affecting 87.6 percent of students worldwide (Education Cannot Wait, 2020). According to the Ministry of Education and Science (MES, 2020), at the beginning of the lockdown in March 2020, around 32 thousand pre-university students, or approximately 11 percent of the total pre-university student population, did not have access to distance education at all in Kosovo. Another fourteen thousand were reported to have missed education mainly due to a lack of digital assets or internet infrastructure. Missing out on education has serious repercussions, both on a personal and collective level.
Moreover, the Covid-19 pandemic has pushed many countries to seek solutions to provide excessive distance education to all students. Some have used traditional media, such as TV and radio, while others have used more contemporary methods such as online classrooms and other online platforms. This variance in approaches has sharpened the divide for access to education among countries. While some countries have been able to provide education using sophisticated technology, children are experiencing the results of a massive digital divide in others.
To drive positive change in the society, specifically in the education sector, back in 2016, with a group of young education and technology enthusiasts we kicked off an online learning initiative in Kosovo – named Meso Online, currently known as Kosovo Center for Distance Educaiton; the aim of which was to diversify the means and alternatives of teaching and learning from traditional to blended-learning. We have absolutely not foreseen the pandemic coming, but knew for sure that digital era is one that requires digital solutions. As an independent group of activists back in 2016/17, we organized community and student meetings, surveys, and developed online tutorials that would become the backbone of our existence later on. Digital solutions have exercised little to no use in the Kosovo’s public education settings prior to the pandemic, and therefore, we strongly believed that it is an issue that we should tackle and raise awareness on.
As digitalization of the education sector remains an enigma for most of the education stakeholders in Kosovo, therefore we aim provide bases on the policy context and practical solutions for the country. Our approach to the issue consists with the contextualization of the practices of virtual learning in leading countries. It always has to start from somewhere, and while we understand the barriers and the skepticism of transformations on the educaiton sector – we also serve as a center that informs educaiton as well as the general community on where we need to go for the sector to take off.
Tackling the digital divide, is the first prerequisite to enabling an equal virtual learning environment for all. Therefore, KCDE returned in full force with a program named ConnectEd (Connect Education) which objective is to register and bridge the digital divide. Our efforts to enable such an environment is the stepping stone towards integration of the digital and virtual solutions to the public educaiton sector.
Antigona Uka – Executive Director, Kosova Center for Distance Education