The health crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has implications for all sectors, including education and training. In Côte d’Ivoire, as elsewhere in the world, schools and universities have closed down to prevent the spread of the virus. The Ivorian education system, was severely paralyzed by workers’ strikes, must now face this health crisis.

Closed schools, open learning

More than five million students have been deprived of lessons in Côte d’Ivoire since March 16, 2020. The Ivorian authorities quickly turned to distance education.  In a project dubbed “Closed school, open notebooks “, the Ministry of National Education, Technical and Professional Training (Menetfp) is trying to ensure school continuity despite the closure of educational institutions.

Distance learning courses through national radio and television started on April 9, 2020, for the benefit of students expected to take their exams at the end of the school year. For a number of teachers and students, although innovative, this distance learning project remains a major challenge.

“The establishment of online courses is a good move from the Ivorian government, but implementation remains complex and uncertain.   We already know that students find it difficult to assimilate face-to-face lessons, what about distance education?  As educators and parents of students, we want this health crisis to be eradicated so that students can return to school.   The only way to save this school year ”, says Alphonsine Kouadio, a teacher in Bouaké.

For some, these distance courses will at least support parents in taking care of their children during this break,  but won’t achieve much in ensuring real learning continuity. Teachers also need training to effectively deliver distance classes.

Unequal access to education

This new homeschooling method will further widen the gap between students in large cities where electricity and the internet are accessible, and those in rural areas that are hardly covered by these services. In addition, children from disadvantaged backgrounds will pay the heaviest price. Indeed, distance education is complex for some families who do not own a television and/or internet connection. In addition, in rural areas, fieldwork may take precedence overstudies. These online courses require increased parental involvement. However, with an illiteracy rate estimated at 51%, many parents won’t be able to adequately support their children in their learning. The risk of dropping out of school is also to be feared.

These are among the many challenges that the Ministry of Education must face to save the Ivorian school. Long relegated to the background, distance learning in primary and secondary education now appears as the only solution to allow students to continue their education. Effective and lasting deployment of distance education in the Ivorian education system is more than necessary to deal with emergency situations.