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The state of teaching and learning during the outbreak of COVID-19 in East African Universities

Published onApr 23, 2024
The state of teaching and learning during the outbreak of COVID-19 in East African Universities


The primary concern about interruptions in teaching and learning in higher education institutions is no longer a question of internal conflicts like student strikes or staff demonstrations but whether universities and colleges are cultivating a resilient institutional culture to mitigate, adapt to, and survive external and global interruptions such as COVID-19. Respective government directives compelled East African learning institutions to abruptly terminate in-person learning in March 2020 in the wake of COVID-19 in the region. Instructors and university management officers of the sampled universities in Tanzania and Kenya shared their experience through individual and face-to-face interviews on the knowledge and skills of the instructors on alternative modalities of managing teaching and learning during this period? This study uses descriptive analysis to provide an in-depth understanding of the state of teaching and learning during COVID-19 pandemic in East African Universities. The analysis reveals that despite initiative invested by university management in training instructors for different modalities of teaching and learning, instructors were reluctant to adopt an online model of instruction. Consequently, workload increased after re-opening of the universities with development of policy guidelines and conducting research for appropriate ways of managing universities during pandemic being suggested.

Keywords: Pandemic, COVID-19, Teaching and Learning, Instructors, University Management, and East African Universities


The sudden closure of higher education institutions in East Africa in March 2020 was prompted by the first confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the respective countries, following the first detected case in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. For example, in Kenya, the first case involved a college-age female student who had arrived a week earlier in the country, having traveled to the US via London. Subsequently, more directives were issued by the health cabinet secretary, suspending all public gatherings and meetings, including sports, games, religious crusades, and all in-person events (Ombuor, 2020). Next, the government-imposed night curfews and cessation of movements in identified COVID-19 hotspots to curb the sharp increase of detected cases. These and other non-pharmaceutical measures were replicated in East Africa and globally as best practices in reducing the spread of the Coronavirus. Consequently, in-person teaching and learning in universities in the East African region were halted for about a year, and for 22 months in the case of Uganda (Mbonye, 2022). Globally, 1.5 billion learners from over 165 countries were compelled to stay off the physical school premises (UNESCO). Therefore, in the absence of in-person meetings, was there any teaching and learning happening in EA universities? If yes, how was it implemented? What lessons can be learned from this specific pandemic to better manage similar pandemic situations in the future?

Addressing the  aforementioned questions requires an understanding of the teaching and learning in universities. Arif et al. (2022) inform that the teaching and learning process in higher education has been undergoing changes from the traditional way characterized by teacher-centered to modern  vocational education and apprenticeship methods underpinned by the principle of an interactive face-to-face method where students can make queries, participate in the discussion, conducting laboratory experiments for effective learning. Darling-Hammond et al. (2001) describe effective teaching as the one involving: (i) organizing the learning environment, (ii) organizing knowledge, information, and activities, and (iii) organizing people. The interactive face-to-face method can promote better engagement (Kunin et al., 2014) and could result in new patterns of behavior (Bandura, 1977). However, the challenges experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic in many countries in the world in formal and informal learning provoked practitioners and researchers about instructors’ awareness on modalities that could be used in situations similar to COVID-19 pandemic. The need was high as teaching and learning was impacted by the COVID-19-related crisis in the most direct way and that was due to the absence of options for face-to-face interactions for an extended period (World Bank, 2020). 

Theoretical framework

This study was informed by the activity theory by Mwanza and Engeström (2005) which focuses on the interaction between humans and computers. The theory has influenced teaching and learning using instruments, tools, mediation, etc. Importantly, the activity theory illustrates the potential advantages of teaching and learning using new tools as vehicles for modernizing, contextualizing, and transforming activity procedures (Engestrom, 1987). Vygotsky (1978) argues that technology-enhanced education and personal contextual learning have the potential in scaffolding learners as learning happens through a variety of forms, from increasing engagement, providing alternate learning strategies, and resolving learning bottlenecks to allowing students to master the material, among other things. 

Use of the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in universities is of emphasis (Sharkova, 2014). In the process, teachers’ understanding of the artifact is paramount (Lund & Hauge, 2011) as the third constituent of learning and teaching in addition to speech and writing. Authors emphasize as well the need to re-estimate the teaching and learning balance when developing and designing learning environments. Thus, Ponti (2013) views networked technologies as good mediators between self-directed learners and facilitators. 

Similar studies have been conducted regarding the impacts of COVID-19 on teaching and learning in universities. The apparent impacts included the suspension of in-person learning, reduced revenue to universities, strained ICT infrastructure, increased stress, and mental health concerns, and layoffs of staff and adjunct faculty, among others. However, these studies have a narrow focus based on individual countries, for example, Kenya (Omwenga et. al., 2021), India (Ramaswamy, 2021), Australia (Kumar, 2021), Spain (Verdo & Valero, 2021). The primary strategy to mitigate the physical closure of schools, as indicated in these studies, was the shift to online teaching and learning. Besides, there was hardly any study involving multiple countries, which is vital in providing a regional perspective of the phenomenon’s impact and mitigation strategies that could be shared or easily contextualized. Unlike the existing studies, this study fills the gap by providing a regional perspective on the impact of COVID-19 on teaching and learning in East African Universities. A concerted strategy from the region is pertinent in offering easily scalable and sustainable solutions that would help higher education institutions become more resilient in the likelihood of future shocks of similar magnitude.  

2. Methodology

2.1 Research design and participants

Informed by descriptive phenomenology, this study was conducted using a qualitative approach to explore the status of teaching and learning in universities during the COVID-19 pandemic by engaging university faculty and management. The design was appropriate to empirically provide evidence of the actual state of teaching and learning of sampled universities in East African countries, that is Kenya and Tanzania. Semi-structured interviews were used to engage university instructors who were 18 and the university management who were 12 as key informants who have personal experiences, attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs related to the topic of interest (DeJonckheere & Vaughn, 2019) and because the pandemic was a new phenomenon to the teaching and learning in universities, so, collecting new and exploratory data was important (Lincoln & Guba, 1985). 

Data for this study were collected through individual face-to-face interviews with the faculty, students, and management of the sampled universities in Kenya and Tanzania. During the data collection, researchers audio-taped the conversations and used notebooks to record information shared by respondents so that analysis is done without losing the data that was collected. For the university faculty, the activity of collecting data was done in a well-prepared room for the researchers to meet with the study participants. Meanwhile, University management personnel were visited by the researchers in their respective offices. This arrangement for data collection was done to avoid interferences that could draw attention that could impact the concentration of the participants and the researcher.  Table/figure… illustrates the study participants involved in this study per country.

2.2 Research ethics and data analysis

The project team observed all the ethical procedures that involved the collection by securing research clearance from the university of Dodoma and ANU that were used to request authorities of the sampled universities for accessing students, university faculty, and university management. When researchers secured research permits, they met with targeted respondents and explained the purpose of the study for securing informed consent from them. Respect for the respondent's dignity was observed throughout the study in a way that reporting hid their names and used pseudonyms when reporting. 

After collecting data, the interview data was transferred to a word template developed for transcribing and pasting such information for the translation and coding process. Following coding, the research team exported the codes to Microsoft Excel for further processing and graph production. 


3. Results

3.1 Instructors' knowledge and skills for alternative teaching modalities

This objective intended to explore the situation of faculty for alternative teaching modalities rather than face-to-face in East African universities during COVID-19. Therefore, an analysis of the data collected from the university faculty and management on the situation of teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic was conducted and figure 1 illustrates the outcomes. The analysis reveals mixed feelings on the extent faculty were prepared to undertake teaching and learning in a different mode from the one they have been using. For instance, university management (over 60% of relative responses) holds the view that university faculty who are responsible for conducting teaching and learning sessions were trained to go for blended learning especially online following the closure of university teaching and learning; faculty responded differently regarding their preparedness. Though fewer university faculty indicated to have been trained to use multiple modalities of teaching and learning in situations like the pandemic, reasonable responses from university faculty indicated they are reluctant in using multiple modalities than the face-to-face modality. It was explained that; 

Though we have experts enabling us to use the blended learning modality even in our offices, yet all the training we receive ends up there and fellow faculty do not apply it and continue with our traditional practices (Faculty, School of Education, University of Dar es Salaam). 

Another faculty from the same university elaborated;

Past experience of many faculty impacts the uptake of the new tradition of conducting teaching and learning. I experience the reluctance of faculty who despite the availability of stable internet and facilities, mainly the RECHO which does not necessarily require connectivity to run remote learning, yet faculty do not like using it to facilitate learning and teaching. The facility supports access to materials and interaction without all being at one learning area. 

In the respondents’ views, even though there has been training to staff to prepare them to undergo teaching and learning through multiple modalities, their readiness is an issue that has been impacting implementation of the knowledge and skills they are engaged in. Attitude change is an area of focus for the achievement of the desired transformation by the education system and adapting to situations to facilitate meaningful learning. 

Lack of preparedness in undertaking the responsibility of using multiple modalities of facilitating teaching and learning could be a possible reason for teacher or instructors’ reluctance. 

Figure 1: Views on teachers’ preparedness for multiple modalities of teaching and learning

In their elaborations, it was said: 

I am one of those who attended a short course related to Learning Management System-LMS but if being required to construct a test using it I will need support from the mentor because despite the training being good, it was conducted for a short period of time and for few teachers especially those teach postgraduate students (SOED, UDSM). 

The short period of time is associated with instructors being reluctant to take into practice the limited knowledge and skills they were enhanced with. It remains indicative that instructors could still become reluctant to apply the knowledge and skills they learned if the situation is not intervened to really identify the matter in hand that takes time used for the training as a driving force towards poor uptake of the diverse modality of teaching and learning.    

Fear was also observed by university management being among the factors impacting instructors to use multiple modalities in implementing teaching and learning during and even before the COVID-19 pandemic. Though faculty did not identify it as a challenge to the teachers using multiple modalities in teaching and learning. One of the University Management Officers informed that; 

To some points, there is a challenge of willingness or knowledge of the instructors themselves, because we had courses online offered but still could not move very far as the perception of people about the online mode is poor linked with fake or poor materials made for learners pursued their studies not accepted by Tanzania Commission for Universities [TCU] (Interviewee, UDSM Business School). 

The view by the Manager indicates that the quality of instructional materials and the awards that other people have received from the institutions are not recognized by the commission of higher education in Tanzania contributes to the poor image associated with online training. It further indicates to the teaching and learning in higher education institutions in EA that regulatory bodies have a role to ensure those offering courses through online mode are checked, controlled and regularly inspected for quality matters. 

3.2 The teaching and learning in East African universities

The state of teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic was in a state that impacted delivery and learning. Figure 2 indicates that the teaching and learning in East African universities were largely impacted by the workload spike as a result of squeezing the semester so as to recover the lost days due to the prolonged closure of universities. Consequently, both the instructors and university management testify that the teaching and learning had to continue for the number of days that remained, thus no more days were added to compensate. It was explained that; 

Semesters were squeezed, in a way that a big content was taught in a short period of time. You are told to cover it this week, which is up to you. To us it was a burden, on both sides, as it made me turn lectures into tutorials and tutorials into lectures, practical into lectures (Instructor, College of Informatics and Virtual Education, University of Dodoma). 

Another instructor elaborated on the situation of teaching and learning during the COVID-19 pandemic; 

The number of weeks that are used to cover a semester are known. When the pandemic hit our countries and its socio-economic activities, re-opening had to take care of all necessary activities [covering the course outline, administering a test, scoring it, and setting a university examination] all in a short period of time. It was too engaging (Instructor, School of Education University of Dar es Salaam). 

Instructors' viewpoints on the situation of the teaching and learning during the pandemic illustrates that the workload was high as many unfinished activities were to be covered in the remaining weeks before universities were closed as a way to control spreading and possible deaths. On the other side it could be linked with budgetary issues as students receive loans to subsidize their living and studying. Budgetary implication could have also contributed in bounding teaching and learning to resume and proceed covering the time that could make a complete semester. 

University management shared their views and the majority of them acknowledged that workload increased as instructors were required to cover the curriculum in the weeks that were allowed for the university programs to continue. Officers from both parts of the project [Tanzania and Kenya] witnessed and reported increased workload. For example, One of the Officer at the State University of Zanzibar [SUZA] reported;

It was chaos because the semester was shortened, so the contact hours for teaching and learning were extended. Teaching was rushing, as time for teaching was increased without considering student preparedness for the pandemic, they did not have enough money and they had to use some equipment like sanitizers to keep safe.

Shortening of the semester impacted more than delay in university almanac but also the quality of instruction and learning outcomes. Rushing aims to cover and probably less on the meaningful learning which is mostly expected. That is to say that the pandemic impacted teaching and learning in sampled universities in a way that quality was at stake jeopardizing the essence of the training institutions producing a workforce which learned enough.  

In addition to the impact of shortening semesters, hiring was stopped during COVID-19 pandemic that impacted the ratio of instructors by students and increased workload in terms of the number of courses one is given. The instructors with high workload faced more challenges of attending more hours than their counterparts. Consequently, rushing was unavoidable. 

Based on the impacts of the teaching and learning in East African Universities as was experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic and the preparedness of the instructors during such period, the researchers explored the lessons that can be drawn and used to improve working conditions and response to similar situations. Instructors and university management officers were asked to share their views on What lessons can be learned from this specific pandemic to better prepare for similar pandemic situations in the future?. Figure 3 illustrates the analysis of responses given by instructors and university management. 

Figure 3: Respondents’ views on the lessons learned during COVID-19 pandemic in HEIs

The analysis reveals different lessons that instructors and management officers were able to share. Lessons could be categorized into research activities, policy development, and programs for awareness. 

Conducting research 

Instructors suggested that decision making in situations similar to COVID-19 pandemic requires evidence for more informed decisions. In their explanations, searching for information and facts (conducting research) was crucial for more informed decision making by institutions. It was described to focus on multiple issues including management of institutions, adaptation of technology, kind of knowledge or education to communicate to the population served by the university, and potentiality of the internet connectivity to foster learning and teaching from both periphery and urban areas. Conducting research was explained by the respondents; 

Otherwise, I do not have the ability to influence politicians in the way they make decisions. Doing laboratory research is a base for convincing them about the proper way of dealing with the situation of pandemics (Instructor School of Medicine, UDOM). 

The research emphasized by the instructor aims to lay foundations for decision making by the government and universities based on the evidence. 

In addition to decision making, technological adaptation to facilitate blended or remote learning is another lesson. The pandemic impacted teaching and learning because there was limited knowledge on the other modality to facilitate learning and teaching, so programs are not impacted. A call by researchers is also because technological adaptation has a stake that needs to be made through research. They argued that;

“We must review our curriculum to either be face to face or posting the video lectures and incase of anything you can use; we should not wait until another outbreak and do the same in closing universities and delay semester and academic year completion (Instructor, UDOM)”. 

Curriculum review is an important area that instructors indicated to require that they be informed by research so that they reflect societal needs. The review at this point is to be flexible to accommodate uncertainties that could restrict teaching and learning in case similar conditions like that of the COVID-19. 

Policy guidelines

Development of policy that accommodates issues of pandemic and their responses was mostly raised by university management. Development of the policy was said by respondents, especially management, to range from incorporating the in-practice policy for online examination to policy that would acknowledge teaching and learning and the related decision making process be blended. Responses clarified that largely, some universities had poor preparation for issues that would impact university programs especially teaching and learning. Thus, a call for developing policies that put university programs in a state of sustainability is demanding based on the effects of the COVID-19. Some university management said;

Because we do not have pre-pandemic planning, developing such a policy is crucial because COVID-19 waves impacted our programs. Having the policy would keep us safe even today if we are told a new wave will come and is stronger than the first one. I think we shall go back to using experience if we do not learn the best lessons we went through during the pandemic. Policy developed should take community concerns, stipulate pre-pandemic planning, response and mitigation (Management Officer, SUZA). 

Importance of the policy to address pandemic related issues is raised to be important so that institutions do not fall on the same challenges they encountered during COVID-19. In the respondent’s view, response and mitigation mechanisms are important as they show better ways of navigating through such challenges. 

Having a policy preparing the university community and the general public on responding to pandemic issues was viewed as a catalyst for resource mobilization. Through the development of the policy, institutions would be influenced to set aside a budget for equipment and training instructors and general community on the challenges surrounding pandemic similar to COVID-19. Policy is described not only as a catalyst for resource mobilization, but also it would strategically guide operations from the individual efforts where instructors could be aware of the quality of preparing recordings for posting to websites or in the learning management systems for students to access and learn from it. For instance, it was reported during the interview with one of the management officers that the mindset of the community served by universities on online learning is still poor with regard to the quality and credibility of the learning experience offered. Specifically, the officer said; 

I think it is very important to change students’ attitudes as some hate learning online and positively associate face-to-face learning with the ability to understand content being delivered to them. If you remember, there was a time when students from one university I cannot mention, not our university, wrote that they are asking us to pay school fees for just online training. We cannot pay school fees (School of Education, UDSM). 

In the officer’s view, the understanding of the students and probably other community members is that teaching and learning delivered through online platforms should be free from fees. It therefore calls for the need for a policy that would also have programs to raise awareness to the community to be aware of the benefits of the online and blended platforms on achieving learning targets in any situations. 

Internet connectivity was another issue that was associated with the importance of the policy in place to guide and respond to pandemics. Officers and instructors emphasized the importance of having reliable internet connectivity so that online learning when adopted in situations similar to COVID-19 do not get challenged in terms of delivering. Connectivity was explained in different other aspects like the government extending installation of communication networks to cover a larger part of the country so that access to online learning is not barred by connectivity. They shared that even though the budget from the government is meager to meet the demands in the time they are required. Yet they called governments to put more efforts on connectivity just as they do on electrifying villages. One manager argued that;

Basically the governments are responsible for stabilizing communication networks in our villages just as they do in urban areas  so that when situations demand there should be a smooth transition to online teaching and learning. Currently, the institutions that are in urban or peri-urban benefit more than those placed in far rural areas (Management, Maseno University). 

Equality and equity on the resources is emphasized so that regardless of geographical locations, teaching, and learning should not be impacted. Thus, every citizen enjoys their livelihood both socially and economically. Breaking differences among communities including learning institutions in accessing reliable internet is important. 

Awareness programs

Though awareness programs were given low consideration by study participants, their importance in situations that were experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic could not be underestimated. Instructors called for the preparation of programs when pandemic emerges to create awareness to the university community and the nearby community as a measure to control cases and for mitigating effects of it based on World Health Organization [WHO] standards including proper way of wearing masks. Awareness programs were also reported to be important to promote healthy behaviors like exercising daily at home as we insisted on practice during the pandemic. 

Integration of Information Communication Technology [ICT] was highlighted to be important in conveying messages that convey information to reach everyone in the form of short messages [SMs] to sensitize individuals about safety measures and precautions. It was said by one of the instructors that;

Sensitization program about the importance of precautions and low cost measures even during times where there is no pandemic. Our country has its largest population residing in rural areas where there is an emergency of the outbreak, sensitization would pay less benefits as it would be late (School of Medicine, UDOM). 

Sensitization programs are underscored on their importance in situations where communities need information to keep them safe. Sustainability of the program is raised so that the community is prepared for similar challenges so that they build a culture of sensitization rather than being driven by events. 

Sensitization was also stressed by university management officers with sustainability of the programs being highly emphasized. Particular focus of the management officers was on precaution measures as was observed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Management officers revealed negligence that was demonstrated during COVID-19 especially when it was announced that everyone should be wearing masks. Some people did not wear masks and that could contribute to worsening the situation in terms of spreading the viruses and causing more deaths. In such a situation, management officers are worried that without sensitization programs that are well designed and that are continuous to progressively increase knowledge of the community on such cases would protect ourselves from the infectious diseases in our community so that when the pandemic comes and it is announced people are ready. The program was suggested to have a distribution of responsibilities and close follow-up to whoever was given tasks to perform. It was exemplified that; 

I think in these large communities, it should be known who does what such as production of sanitizers, there should be a delivery point, whether in warden’s offices, there should be a point responsible issues of prevention (School of Nursing and Pharmacy, SUZA)

In the view of the respondent, service delivery points need to be well-prepared in terms of knowledge and facilities so that those targeted benefits for the sensitization and prevention programs. That was connected with the suggestion that when university communities, especially students are widely reached, it would be easy for them to communicate the same to their families in different parts of the country. Programs can also be organized in a way that they use students in some instances to be taken to rural areas as knowledge hubs to raise awareness to rural dwellers and they can reach many as they are in huge numbers.  

1. Discussion

This study takes place at a moment when the ability of universities and academia to contribute to the common good is increasingly being challenged. There is a propensity to view universities as more self-serving than assisting communities and society. However, the fact that this study, among other similar studies, was conducted during the COVID-19 period serves as a reminder that the academy still places a high priority on serving the needs of the community. In view of potential future disruptions similar to COVID-19, this study offers a critical reflection on lessons learned and the need for universities to be proactive in risk management in cultivating a culture of resilience in the teaching and learning processes in the event of unpredictable shocks. There needs to be policy development to address the gaps in digital content access and digital literacy for students from impoverished and vulnerable communities so that they too can leverage technology in self-paced, interactive, remote learning, particularly during global disruptions such as COVID-19. 

According to the findings, universities used a variety of strategies to deal with the pandemic's impact on teaching and learning programs. The workload was observed to have an impact on instructors, even outside of East African universities (Houlden & Veletstianos, 2020). According to instructors in East African universities, the workload increased in terms of contact hours that instructors and students used to meet for sessions to compensate for lost hours during university closures; Markov et al. (2021) reported a similar experience. Godber and Atkins (2021) discovered an increase in information overload and increased workload for instructors in situations where universities shifted to remote teaching and learning. Preparedness of the instructors in handling teaching and learning sessions was observed to challenge universities in fulfilling their duties by offering quality services to students (Martel, 2020). Reluctancy of the instructors in adopting new modality of teaching and learning was observed by this study just as reported by the World Bank (2020) that not all teachers were ready in some areas to make the transition to emergency remote teaching on reasons that they the lack skills and training as well as low availability of learning materials for online. The World Bank’s report remains relevant to the findings obtained in some involved East African universities in this study that though university management believe it had prepared its instructors. Different from the university management responses in the sampled East African Universities, some United States higher education institutions offered technical assistance, webinars and training on online instruction methods to teaching staff and provision of the necessary hardware or software (World Bank, 2020). 

However, as identified by the study's respondents, researching and implementing online teaching modalities is critical (Anderton et al., 2021). Through research on the best modality for enabling meaningful learning to occur in situations similar to COVID-19, some were able to make use of online learning in which the content was chunked in modules, including shorter videos of not more than 20 minutes are better for student interest and engagement (Lee et al., 2022; Bao, 2020). The respondents' (instructors and management officers) emphasis on the use of online platforms where materials or tutorials are posted is supported by practical evidence elsewhere, as it has been used extensively with lecture recordings posted on virtual learning environments and learning management systems, allowing for asynchronous learning (De Tantillo & Christopher, 2020). Though respondents of this study called the non-face-to-face modality as online teaching and learning; Hodges et al. (2020) and UNESCO IESALC (2020) refer to this type of learning arrangements which was a rapid response to the COVID-19 pandemic should be considered as ‘emergency remote teaching’. Authors suggest considering such learning responses as emergency remote teaching because it involves the use of fully remote teaching solutions for instruction or education that would otherwise be delivered face-to-face or as blended or hybrid courses in the view that would possibly return to that format once the crisis or emergency has ended and is different from planned and prepared online teaching. As a result, universities have relied heavily on online learning to combat the impact of COVID-19 on education. Switching to the online mode of teaching and learning has been found to be inefficient as it could be expected due to several global and local challenges that universities are facing in countries like Bulgaria, Georgia, Ukraine, and Uzbekistan whose larger population still do not use (or do not have access to) the internet (World Bank, 2020) just as in East African countries. Chan et al. ( ) identify the most common way used to provide students with remote instruction is the use of audio and video conferencing (e.g., Zoom, Google Meet, Skype). 

Though online was widely used by universities during the pandemic, research on its usefulness is recommended for improving delivery and learning, as Mahyoob (2020) discovered that the modality presents technical, academic, and communication challenges to learners, affecting their ability to meet the expected progress in language learning performance. Addressing the issues affecting the use of online modes of learning cannot be separated from the imperative of leaving no one behind (United Nations, 2020). Learning to manage technology-enhanced learning is equally important for the importance of constructing knowledge rather than imparting information (GuriRosenblit & Gros, 2011).

Making sustainable changes for adapting new modalities of teaching and learning, as well as preparing universities to run their educational programs uninterrupted, as the policy was discussed by respondents in sampled East African universities; unguided operations are likely to lead institutions to failure and confusion (Mahyoob, 2020).

4 Conclusions and recommendations

Teaching and learning in East African Universities was significantly impacted by COVID-19 pandemic. The closure of physical campuses, the uncertainties around the resolve time for the pandemic, and anxieties among students and faculty staff  meant that hardly any teaching and learning was happening. The Universities that already had some form of online learning before the pandemic and those that were able to adopt online learning were able to continue teaching and learning with lots of challenges around economic, technological, and social constraints.       

Universities would continue being impacted during pandemics if the instructors’ attitudes are not positively aligned to situations that call for their attention and adaptability. Though instructors were said to be reluctant to adapt the online modality of teaching and learning, their preparation needs to be well organized and coordinated so that they are conversant with the modalities. Internet connectivity remains a strong barrier to the online modality unless governments in collaboration with ICT experts from universities or diverse fields ensure wide installation of connectivity to enable stable and sustainable access to online courses and materials. It is also recommended that awareness programs be well designed and implemented with a focus to improve intelligence in responding to situations similar to COVID-19 pandemic. 


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