The management of the Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting global education. The closure of schools and universities across 184 countries have sent home 1.5 billion students, representing more than 90% of the world’s students .
Since mid-March, a large proportion of African schools and universities have closed their doors. However, these closures do not mean that teaching activities have come to a complete cessation. Whether public, private or supported by associations, all institutions are trying to do their best to provide transitional solutions so that pupils can continue their schooling and so that the precious learning time is not lost for good.
The group Investisseurs & Partenaires, which supports some fifteen companies in the education sector, can testify the strong resilience and innovative spirit of these actors. From nurseries to high schools and training centers, these companies are showing that they can adapt their business during a crisis that is hitting them hard. This article is largely based on I&P’s portfolio, but also includes some other noteworthy initiatives.
E-learning: an obvious choice?
In order to ensure continuity of teaching activities, many institutions rely on e-learning systems. This is for example the case of Enko Education’s network of high schools, whose courses have been taking place since the end of March on a new online platform. Following the creation of a crisis committee, new working methods have also been introduced. Teachers must now ensure that each student has daily access to the resources needed to follow the courses, either in digital format or by printing the booklets sent to the families. In the early childhood sector, where screen time must be limited, it is the relationship between parents and pre-school structures that needs to be reinvented. Thanks to social networks, newsletter, WhatsApp groups and other communication media, specialist companies, such as Ker Imagination in Senegal , can support parents to promote good practice at home and strengthen the learning community.
Some educational companies made distance learning the core of their model long before the crisis. The startup Etudesk, based in Abidjan and supported by Comoé Capital, has thus developed valuable expertise in building tailor-made e-learning platforms with various partners. Today, Etudesk supports about ten educational institutions in Ivory Coast and Senegal to adapt and put online their pedagogical content in the best possible time and conditions. African Management Institute builds distance and face-to-face training courses for entrepreneurs and SMEs in East Africa. AMI currently provides a free “survival kit” to entrepreneurs to learn crisis management and make the right decisions in the face of serious risks to their business . Another exciting example is the Mali-based company Kabakoo, which is exploring a new model of engineering training that focuses on “solutions to concrete and immediate problems” in its environment. Kabakoo is now making its international platform available for its learners and experts to design and manufacture objects useful in the fight against Coronavirus, such as artificial respirators and masks . With a unique positioning in the technology and education sector, Etudesk, AMI and Kabakoo are leveraging their capacities for innovation and resilience to bring rapid and concrete responses to traditional educational players as well as to companies and citizens.
With a unique positioning in the technology and education sector, these companies are leveraging their capacities for innovation and resilience to bring rapid and concrete responses to traditional educational player
Connectivity, cost and learning conditions: the challenges of home schooling
However, the good practices that are emerging here and there face many difficulties. In West Africa, household connectivity is not provided in large rural or isolated areas . In addition to the challenges of Internet coverage, there is also the issue of the cost involved for consulting these tools online. Other channels are thus necessary and several initiatives are underway to improve the inclusion of education systems in the time of the coronavirus and to limit the risks of school dropout . National radio stations and television channels can be massive solutions for disseminating educational content , provided that there is enhanced cooperation between the ministries concerned and the telecom company, as it is the case in Ivory Coast .
On the other hand, it will be necessary to ensure that pupils can study under good conditions and with assiduity, which is in fact the major issue on which e-learning offers little information for the moment. A fundamental reflection on the role of teachers and on distance teaching methods must be carried out to accompany the development of educational technologies.
Economic impacts are immediate and lasting
Finally, the coronavirus crisis poses a very strong threat to the financial sustainability of companies in this sector. With a complete revenue freeze that could last until September, educational companies must seek to maintain a good relationship with all their stakeholders, especially their employees. Specific measures can be envisaged in the short term, such as adjusting cash flow plans, eliminating non-essential charges, prioritizing creditors, etc. For the most robust institutions, these measures will undoubtedly be sufficient and will probably be in addition to the benevolent support of banking partners. But for a majority of the more vulnerable private players, additional and significant support measures will be absolutely necessary for their survival. Governments, donors, investors and all education financers will have to provide appropriate responses as quickly as possible.
The opportunity to transform education
The current experience is unprecedented. The educational enterprises best prepared for the crisis were those that had integrated, even if incompletely, the challenge of digital transformation into their model. Thus, the coronavirus crisis provides the entire education sector with perhaps an unprecedented opportunity to deploy new models that resonate with the aspirations and practices of new generations of learners.
Broadening access to content, opening up populations, developing new services, individualizing educational pathways, building new learning communities: the potential of digital education is considerable, both for the company and for its beneficiaries. After today’s emergency, it will undoubtedly be time for all those involved in the education sector to re-imagine their model while keeping the issues of accessibility, inclusion and quality at the heart of their principles.
The current crisis provides the entire education sector with an unprecedented opportunity to deploy new models that resonate with the aspirations and practices of new generations of learners.
 Informations de l’UNESCO au 7 avril 2020 https://en.unesco.org/news/unesco-launches-codethecurve-hackathon-develop-digital-solutions-response-covid-19
 Voir par exemple l’indice de connectivité développé par GMSA montrant les déficits d’infrastructure et de connectivité dans la zone Afrique de l’Ouest https://www.mobileconnectivityindex.com/#year=2018
 Voir les risques soulignés par Jeune Afrique au Sénégal : https://www.jeuneafrique.com/922593/societe/senegal-les-bons-et-les-mauvais-points-de-lecole-a-distance-au-temps-du-coronavirus/
 Voici les différents canaux d’enseignement à distance recensés par le GPE : https://www.globalpartnership.org/blog/school-interrupted-4-options-distance-education-continue-teaching-during-covid-19#.XoXPayoKbqI.linkedin
 Voir ici l’initiative du gouvernement ivoirien qui a démarré le 6 avril 2020 pour les classes d’examens (CM2, 3ème, Terminal). http://www.gouv.ci/_actualite-article.php?recordID=11002