“Until now, we cannot say that the quality of educational services provided to students has been affected by the financial crisis,” said Hussein. “However, finding solutions is very necessary today.”
The sudden shift to online education has increased the burden on university administrations and professors. Universities were unprepared for this transformation, lacking ready-made electronic courses, and few professors had previous skills regarding online education methods, the use of digital technology, and dealing with computers.
“In the past, universities relied on traditional classes only to offer their programs,” said Farhan Isak Yusuf, head of the political science department at the University of Mogadishu. “Online education represents a new experience and adventure for Somali universities that were not prepared for.”
Attempts to Adapt
Yusuf believes that science, engineering and medicine majors are those most affected by the shift to online education. Practical lessons in laboratories, which constituted about 50 percent of science students’ curricula, stopped, and practical and field training for students of medicine and engineering stopped.
“The epidemic has hindered the completion of required curricula, and this has affected the morale of many professors and students who have lost their passion for study,” he said.
Some professors are trying to adapt to the new situation by putting handwritten explanations and research papers on YouTube to illustrate lessons. However, that does not seem sufficient.
“Teaching applied science online is very difficult,” said Hussein Mohammed Hassan, a lecturer who teaches applied physics in the Faculty of Education at the University of Mogadishu. “However, we try as much as possible to help our struggling students.”
According to Hassan, professors and students faced several difficulties, such as a reluctance to use the Internet in teaching, which required time to do, the lack of Internet access as some families were unable to afford it, and the difficulty of convincing the students’ parents to have them learn remotely.
“The professor should use whatever method is available to bring his students closer to understanding,” he said. “We used various programs and recorded the curricula to facilitate access for students who are unable to access it.”
Hussein, the Somali Research and Education Network executive, believes that solving the crisis needs unconventional solutions to search for alternative or additional financial resources for universities besides tuition fees, such as searching for research partnerships with African universities or providing cooperation programs with international institutions that support higher education in poor countries.
Until appropriate solutions are implemented, Sa’eed, the University of Mogadishu student who commutes to obtain Internet access, is considering suspending his studies, even if temporarily.
“If the situation continues like this at the start of the new academic year, I will postpone my studies,” he said. “I am unable to continue this way.”