According to the COVID-19 (Miscellaneous Provisions) ACT 2020, it is stated that upon any declaration of an epidemic, which can prove to be harmful to the students, all educational institutions are allowed to close and start learning from a distance.
Soon after the lockdown announcement, the Ministry of Education decided to move to online teaching for pre-primary, primary, secondary and tertiary institutions during the lockdown period. They will also assist staff to implement this new type of learning. The government approved giving 2572 tablets to children under the Social Register of Mauritius (SRM) for poor households.
Mauritius has set up multiple strategies and online programmes to ensure a holistic environment for the students. Grade 1 to 10 were solely committed to the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) with different timings respectively for each grade. Educational programmes were being broadcasted daily on the MBC channel for all grades and all subject areas. While grade 10-13 moved to online teaching on platforms such as Microsoft Teams with their respective educators. Many exciting activities were introduced so that the pupils felt enthusiastic and motivated to learn. The government designed a digital space for all parents and teachers to have safe interaction and communication. The purpose of this area was to clear the queries of parents and pupils who have been having difficulties in any of the syllabus activities.
Concerning tertiary education, lecturers opted for google classroom for their students as it is easily accessible through any devices and has effective communication and sharing. Out of 41 institutions, 23 reported that they had ongoing lecturers during the lockdown and resulted in being effective. With this new mode of learning being introduced and feedback from students and lecturers has been positive, the University of Mauritius has opted to move up to 50% of all modules to online learning for learning and teaching to be more accessible. The universities also conducted all of their final year exams and assignment submissions online without any hassle.
Furthermore, Special Education Needs Resource and Development Centres, which is for disabled children, started to conduct online learning for its students. One to one session was being made with each student via platforms such as WhatsApp and Skype. The officer and director of disable children ensure that the students with hearing and visual impairment have follow-ups weekly with their teachers and not miss their physiotherapist session via Zoom.
Generally, a regular academic year takes about ten months to be concluded, while the year 2020-2021 remarkably took 18 months to be completed. This was difficult for both the learning and the teaching department. Nevertheless, it all paid off to a successful learning rate of 99.9% from grade 1 to 9. The 0.01% population that could not access the broadcasted channels was the homes without television and internet services. The above is proof that the Primary School Achievement Certificate (PSAC) examination had a 73.91 % pass rate for the year 2020-2021, as compared to 2019-2020, which was 73.86%. Amongst 14,103 students, the girls pass rate was 79.19 %, while the boys were 68.69 %. Irrespective of the pandemic, a slight increase in the pass rate paid off the hard work (Source: Mauritius Examination Syndicate).
The education system suffered during and after the pandemic, as interactions became more difficult via online and less focused children adapting to such environments. It was even more complicated for pre-primary schools, as the kids are still in the first phase of learning. However, with the help of parents involving themselves with their kids’ academic activities was a great help and motivation for the kids. 50% of the population were engaged with their kids’ activities and spent at least 5 hours weekly to support and simplify learning for their children.
Though the examinations of School Certificate (SC) and Higher School Certificate (HSC) were carried out during the second wave of the pandemic, the grades 1-5, 7,8, 10 and 12 could not do their end of year exams, and they were promoted directly to the next grade given that their second-semester exams were above pass rate. For the students below the passing rate, their respective principal would decide to either make them sit for another exam to get them progressed in the next year or humbly make them do the whole academic year again for a stronger foundation. (Source: Communiqué from the Ministry of Education).
After the first lockdown, which was the end of May 2020, the government announced that all educational institutions would resume on the 1st of August 2020. The government has undertaken all the necessary precautions and placed strict sanitary conditions such as hand and shoe sanitiser, checking temperature, general cleaning and disinfection for a secure resumption of face-to-face learning.
In summary of the above discussion, COVID-19 could have been a threat to the educational sector and the student’s future. Nevertheless, then again, without the government’s support and cooperation of the teaching and non-teaching staff emphasised earlier in this researched article, it has been possible to be persistent and effective with online learning, and crucial examinations did take place smoothly. Fortunately, 90% of the household were satisfied with the new mode of learning (Source: Statistics of Mauritius).
Narmeen Nasari, Student of Middlesex University (Mauritius) and YUVA Intern