At 8.30 am this Saturday, February 27, 2021, an unusual school seminar involving hundreds of students will get underway. It will be unusual because it will be online. Until COVID-19 disrupted formal education, as it did to virtually every other aspect of life, the idea of students having a seminar online would have been unthinkable.

However, thanks to a project named HeLP, students from many schools are able to come together, online, and attend lessons or a seminar, as the case will be this Saturday when an estimated 50 schools and 2,000 students log in for a seminar on A-Level Mathematics.

HeLP stands for Holistic E-learning Project. The three-year project, which is executed by the Project Implementation Team (PiT) consisting of 5 educational experts; Kalema Golooba Ayub, Ronald Ddungu, Arthur Mbalule, Daniel Kakinda and Allan Kakinda; and supported by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) through the Universal Services Access Fund (UCUSAF), is a game-changing ICT tool that seeks to enhance collaboration and knowledge sharing among schools. 

Research and Education Network for Uganda (RENU) provides the infrastructure on which the collaborative e-learning platform is hosted. The project aims to foster collaboration between rural and urban schools on joint learning activities through the organisation’s web-based e-learning platform and video conferencing.

The project, which is implemented by a team of four educators with significant experience in pedagogy and use of ICT for education, has been piloted in four schools: Gayaza High school, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, Nabisunsa Girls School and Busoga College Mwiri. HeLP is to be rolled out to other schools after the pilot phase.

Mr. Ayub Kalema Golooba, a member of the project’s implementation team, says the four schools were selected on the basis of earlier e-learning projects they have been involved in, readiness and willingness to experiment with the new model of learning, and their relatively well-established ICT infrastructure.

He added that the project seeks to build teachers’ capacity to identify and develop high-quality digital multimedia content and learning objects, which would be accessible both offline and through the web-based e-learning platform.

Saturday’s seminar will be the second for Mathematics but the third online seminar to be hosted by the four schools under the HeLP framework. The first such seminar was held on 5th December 2020 when students from more than 60 schools connected to the RENU network participated in a virtual Mathematics seminar for O-level.

Hajjat Aziida Nsubuga, the Headteacher of Kasawo Secondary School in Mukono district, one of the schools that participated in the December 2020 seminar, commented on the innovation in glowing terms:

“The seminars are a good opportunity for our school to feature and rub shoulders with the big schools in Uganda. As a USE school with limited facilities, it is important for us to involve our students to understand that they too can excel,” she said.

Through UCUSAF, the Commission has over the years supported the education sector, providing computer laboratories to more than 1,000 schools, internet connectivity and teacher training, among other services aimed at improving the quality of teaching and learning.

The objective is to boost quality teaching and learning, thereby contributing to the attaining of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4, which is about ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education” and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

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