Covid-19 Disruption of Inclusive Lifelong Learning through Digital Technologies in Ugandan Higher Education: Policies and Practices for University Vulnerable Groups

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Commonwealth of Learning (COL)

PCF10 Sub-theme: Fostering Lifelong Learning // The Covid-19 crisis has forced most governments around the world to close educational institutions in an attempt to contain the spread of the pandemic, impacting over 91% of the world’s student population according to UNESCO. Uganda is among the countries where schools have been closed for at least 2 years. Uganda subscribes to the UN’s 2030 sustainable development goal (SDG) 4 which is grounded on notions of equity and fairness. The SDG 4 agenda: ‘Ensures inclusive and equitable quality education and promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all’. Similarly, Uganda’s Education Sector Strategic Plan 2018-2020 stipulates delivery of equitable, relevant and quality education for all. Notably in Uganda, with 42 million people (UBOS 2020) in lock down and mostly confined in their homes, digital technologies are becoming a necessity, as they become one of the main ways to access education, but also one remaining vectors for social interactions to take place. For instance, the 2019 communication sector report by the Uganda Communications Commission shows that the country’s internet penetration stands at 37.9% with over 23 million internet users, who mostly use mobile phones. According to the same report, mobile internet subscription stood at between 14.3 to 15.2 million persons out of the 42 million Ugandans. Meanwhile about 1.1 million to 1.4 million Ugandans have actively subscribed to pay-tv services. This clearly shows the digital gap as of 2020, given that a large proportion of the population (estimated at 62-96%) does not have access to the internet or pay-tv. The present article aims to demonstrate that in the current Covid-19 crisis, much as digital technologies are helping to reach wider audiences globally, Uganda, like other Sub-Saharan African countries, still faces several challenges which directly or indirectly affect lifelong learning. Our hypothesis is that some of the most vulnerable students from Universities living in rural communities, people living with disability are the most difficult to reach if ICTS serve as the main instrument for promoting lifelong learning. A survey of a convenient sample of 350 Ugandan students from various socioeconomic backgrounds was conducted. Preliminary results show that despite the fact that digital technologies have enabled the closing of the gap of continued access to lifelong learning during the Covid-19 pandemic in Uganda, there are still existing challenges in implementing Inclusive lifelong learning such as mobile phones, unstable electricity, poor infrastructure and accessing the lowest technology in order to close the educational gap. // Paper ID 6456

Higher Education,Lifelong Learning,Inclusive Education,Digital Equity,Access