Top 4 Lessons from the COVID-19 Response for University and College Faculty
In this blog, Samuel Agyapong, Evidence, Impact and Learning Manager at Education Sub Saharan Africa (ESSA), highlights findings from ESSA's 'Learning in Crisis' report on the impact of COVID-19 on universities and colleges in sub-Saharan Africa.
Faculty, like students, have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Technology and infrastructure concerns, as well as increased workload, dominate reporting. Recent budget cuts, hiring freezes and furlough announcements have heightened faculty concerns about the stability of their jobs and their current and future workloads.
1. Faculty need more training to deliver online learning
The unprecedented switch to online learning due to COVID-19 health protocols immediately impacted faculty members’ workloads. Most faculty members were required to do significantly more work to move courses online, rethink curriculums and assessment, learn to use software and technology for teaching and learning; and make sure that all their students are included and are coping. However, like students, the sudden move has occurred with little time for faculty to prepare; to acquire the necessary equipment; or to improve their ICT, and digital skills.
2. Academic Staff layoffs, and hiring and salary freezes to minimise costs are putting faculty at risk
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, non-permanent teaching and research staff on contracts have been dismissed by their institutions to cut costs. In some countries in sub-Saharan Africa, these include academic and non-academic staff on fixed-term contracts, such as visiting lecturers, researchers, and student affairs professionals.
3. Adapting to the changes in the education sector could benefit staff in the long run
The financial implications of the pandemic have extended from immediate concerns about students and faculty welfare to longer-term sector-wide concerns about the rigidity of the region's higher education system to recover from the economic effects of the pandemic.
Fred AkaPhari Awaah, lecturer at the University of Professional Studies, Ghana:
“Students recommended that the admission process should be streamlined in a way that it is fully online. This should include uploading relevant documents on the portal without having to go to the study centres. They further desired that information on the estimated cost of fees for each course should be available on the NOUN website, and graduates within the age range of NYSC should be allowed to undertake the scheme to further boost the esteem of the institution and make its alumni more marketable.”
4. Mental health issues for faculty can’t be ignored
Over the past few months, there has been a steep rise in staff needing mental health support. With little support, over 375, 000 faculty members within the region are experiencing stress and anxiety besides coping with their confined lives, increased workload, and job uncertainties. This may further impact teaching quality.
This blog draws on findings from ESSA's Learning in Crisis report on the COVID-19 pandemic response in sub-Saharan Africa.