LDC students protest suspension of online classes

LDC gate

Students at the Law Development center have issued a statement in which they overwhelmingly object against the suspension of the online classes by parliament last week.

Parliament ordered a halt to the online classes citing the fact that some students would be left out due to lack of internet and other tools required to participate, just as was the case for Uganda Christian University.

Also Read: LDC students will be required to wear suits during online classes – Guild President

They, however, have not taken the issue lightly and condemned the move.

Below is a statement from the LDC students guild.

RESPONSE TO PARLIAMENT’S DECISION TO HALT LDC ONLINE LEARNING

Suspension misguided

We the students of the Law Development Centre (LDC) through our Guild leadership wish to express our dismay towards the decision reached by the august house in indefinitely suspending online studies at LDC basing on grossly inaccurate information and in total disregard of the interests of the students who are the primary stakeholders and not victims of this assault.

In attempt to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus, on 18th March, 2020, the President HE Yoweri Kaguta Museveni directed the closure of all academic institutions, LDC inclusive, for then 30 days effective Friday the 20th March, 2020. This was despite the fact that LDC was in the final stages of its second term examinations and we were left with only a third term of 8 weeks of physical attendance of class before going on clerkship to complete the academic year. The physical closure has since been extended for now 3 months.

Following multiple requests from the students and in a selfless effort to keep the students academically engaged, LDC management first resolved to conduct a two week survey on the feasibility of online studies. The test studies involved ICT trainings for students and staff through revision of already covered areas. By God’s grace, the survey was successful. It is from this survey and engagements with the key stakeholders, that is the students, that LDC made an informed decision to roll out online studies.

Unfortunately, on 17th of June 2020, within the first week of the very beneficial studies, Hon. Okupa stained the Parliamentary Hansards with falsehoods that LDC was examining students and asking for a fee of UGX. 20,000/= to facilitate the online studies hence misleading the august house into abusing our right to an education.

We wish to categorically state that LDC is not and will not examine us online nor has it asked for any facilitation towards the online studies. LDC must be commended for the scientific approach used to reach its decision to continue third term online.

LDC and students investments will be wasted

First, LDC has always had ICT at the forefront of its services. All of us are required to present our laptops at registration. We are assigned email addresses and Moodle Accounts where all our teaching materials are circulated. Most of our classrooms are fitted with projectors and computers because our presentations are prepared online and projected. The main medium of communication for students in case of any new update whether during physical studies or during this lockdown has been Whatsup and every student is on an assigned firm Whatsapp Forum. The leadership of these firms is in turn on Forums with the Administration to bridge the gap of communication between professional advisers and students. Following the closure of the Centre, zoom licenses were purchased for both lecturers and students to be able to remain online.

LDC then conducted a Pilot of three weeks of revision classes where both students and lecturers were trained in the various ICT platforms that the Centre has invested in. This was followed by a the Centre preparing Guidelines to govern the online studies which took into account various aspects and provided for remedies such as waiver of attendance requirements upon students furnishing proof. It is an absurdity to let all these investments on both the Student and Staff’s parts go to waste. Although the online studies have some challenges such as the cost of data and unstable network connectivity, there is no doubt that these challenges are not only manageable but are also outweighed by the benefits that online studies present. In fact, the first week of online classes registered 1,524 students out of 1,604 (1,074 for Kampala, 530 Mbarara) making it 95 % attendance rate! This is better or equal to the same attendance rates for physical classes.

Online learning is the future of education

To mitigate the challenges, LDC is in the final stages of securing cheaper internet services from multiple internet service providers in the country. For some of us who may not be in position to attend class for one reason or another, all we have to do is to notify LDC about the inability and then revisit recordings of the missed sessions. Such benefits are unprecedented at LDC.

But suspending the online education classes only does more harm than good. The rent bills are piling up to tunes higher than our tuition. In fact, landlords have started demanding for rent irrespective of whether we stayed in the hostels or traveled home. To add insult to injury, some have even started forcefully evicting students from the hostels. All this is in addition to extended utility bills and cost of feeding. We have already over run our budgets and pushing us back into the waiting room for an extra day is inhumanely squeezing your knees on our necks.

As the pockets of parents, private sponsors and students continue to bleed, it’s our finding that buying data for online classes is way cheaper than paying for extra months of waiting on the uncertain. With online studies, certainty is restored.

Scholarships and funds running out

Students funded by scholarships bodies are also in danger of losing out on funding for substantially falling out of the time frames. There are also groups of young Ugandans that have secured numerous scholarship offers for further studies; these are also on the verge of loosing out on the offers due to uncertainty in the time frames. Our peers who studied other courses are already in the field while our right to earn a livelihood continues to be curtailed by successfully completing LDC.

It’s also pertinent to note that Courts of Judicature are also currently conducting business online. This projects that indeed the future of the law is online and this is a chance to prepare young lawyers for the digital world. Not to mention that the Electoral Commission also unveiled a road map for scientific elections. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

Our firm call on the august house is that in any invent that Parliament wishes to offer any help let the target be to better the status quo rather than suspending the online studies. This is an opportunity we cannot just throw without giving it due consideration. It’s our humble appeal that “we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Parliament as a true representative should be resolving our issues and not compounding them. Therefore we call upon Parliament to support the LDC Administration with a COVID Fund that will enable students complete the current Academic Year by covering the following;

  1. Securing cuts on tuition. We raise this ground on the basis that the cut on tuition would help in sustaining the online studies for students whose budgets for the academic year are now depleted.
  2. Rent
  3. Cover the cost of Data to attend online classes

We demand that the ban on LDC online studies be lifted immediately. We also call upon the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs as well as the Uganda Law Society to come to our rescue on the matter.

Last but not the least; it would be prudent that going forward, before a decision is reached affecting Law Development Centre students, the student leaders are first consulted.

In the meantime, we call upon our fellow students to not seat back and let their brilliant minds rust in these uncertain times but to stay academically engaged as we await a way forward.

FOR GOD AND OUR COUNTRY.

DATED 19th JUNE 2020.

Also Read: Hundreds miss out on LDC graduation

We shall keep you informed.

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Joshua Amaitum

A creative and passionate writer who loves to work magic with words