Nationwide internet shutdown stalls online exams at UCU
Originally posted at: https://www.ugandapartners.org/2021/02/nationwide-internet-shutdown-stalls-online-exams-at-ucu/
By Jimmy Siyasa
Have you ever prepared for an online examination and the internet disappeared?
That is what happened to Uganda Christian University (UCU) students who were studying remotely online in mid-January 2021. The Ugandan government claimed a need to shut down the internet for reasons related to the Jan. 14, 2021, general elections.
According to the government spokesperson, Ofwono Opondo, the Internet shutdown was intended for national security reasons and to curb sensationalism and hate speech during and after the elections that included balloting for President.
The internet shutdown forced UCU to extend examinations deadlines and halt vital institutional activities as absence of connectivity fractured cyber communication between the University administration and students.
Before the shutdown, online examinations were underway for students who had been studying remotely in the institution nationally acclaimed for her effective cyber-based learning system.
The internet shutdown forced students living in rural areas to travel back to the main campus in Mukono to seek clarity amidst the internet crisis. The students were supposed to write their first examination at 9:00 a.m. (East African Time) on Monday, January 18, according to the timetable.
However, the examinations, which had to be emailed to each of the students, were delayed because email, social media and other online-communication had been cut off. Final-year law students, for example, were emailed their exams late – on Jan. 22 – with some arriving even later.
Both students and members of staff were frustrated at the occurrence of the nearly one-week long disconnection of the internet.
“Some of us had coursework submission deadlines to beat but we could not because the internet was off,” said Matthias Tumuhairwe, a third-year student of Bachelors of Science in Accounting and Finance, who failed to submit an online course work as required on January 15.
According to the office of the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, some parents were also hindered from making last-minute tuition payments through UCU’s online banking platforms such as Flexi pay.
UCU’s usually active Twitter handle and Facebook page, managed by the UCU Communication and Marketing Department, were unable to convey information. The Department staff members were unable to load text, photos or videos.
“Ever since the internet shutdown, we have not been able to keep in touch with our current and prospective stakeholders, including support of recruitment of students, now that it is done digitally,” said Marketing and Communication spokesperson, Frank Obonyo. “I don’t know how many potential applicants we have lost because we disappeared from cyber space.”
According to the Deputy Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs, John Kitayimbwa, in a January 27, 2021, memo, starting with the Easter Semester (February 6, 2021), final-year students will engage in a blended on-line and face-to-face learning while other students will learn on-line only.
In addition to educational institutions such as UCU, many Ugandan businesses also suffered due to the inability to access technology. According to the Daily Monitor newspaper, a Ugandan local daily, financial technology companies lost Shs66b ($17.9 million) on a daily basis due to the internet shutdown.
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