I Have promised myself not to mention the “C” word in this opinion piece as you the reader are probably as sick and tired about reading about that pandemic’s insidious takeover of the world as we know it. If ever there was a time when every single business owner or leader was forcibly required to be creative it is now.
From how to get the production of your goods continuing in a highly disrupted supply chain, to how to deliver your services in a safe environment for both staff and clients, to how to keep your non-essential staff engaged as they sit at home twiddling their thumbs worrying about if and when that redundancy letter comes through from human resource (HR).
We are having to be more creative in finding things to do that will bring in income, not just currently, but even in the future when we get to the other side of the “C” word. The good news is that if we crack this challenge we can deliver services beyond just Nairobi to geographical jurisdictions that we had never thought about.
The winners (because if our print media is to be believed, there are always winners and losers) are the internet service providers globally, as this innovation will be taking place in multiple industries and multiple places. Software developers will also win big, as the demand for previously physically delivered services is bound to surge particularly for those in the educational space. Courier companies are also likely to get increasing demand as documents have to be sent from person to person, which documents previously would have been signed in a co-working space as well as goods being delivered, as many companies reduce their own delivery capacity to cut costs.
I wrote last week that I had decided to flee to my deserted office to escape a barrage of academic questions from my children, since they were knee deep in remote learning. But this past week required me to work from home and I sat next to my nine-year-old as she had a music class on Zoom, the online meeting platform. First she shooed me away as my shoulder was visible in the screen. So I gingerly relocated to a metre away and had to literally sit on my hands as the teacher played a video which allegedly had music, but which the students, at least my daughter and myself, who sat in the peanut gallery, couldn’t hear. So I asked her to type in the chat room that she couldn’t hear the music, only to find that five other students were chatting about having the same problem.
Meanwhile the teacher was swaying to the inaudible sounds, eyes closed, in complete bliss. I couldn’t stand it anymore and pushed my daughter aside, waving furiously at the teacher to wake up and read the chats (imagine hands in the air typing on an invisible keyboard as a sign that teacher needs to check the chat bar).
The other children whose eyes were open as they weren’t in the same auditory bliss as the teacher, started laughing, but the teacher couldn’t hear because a) she had muted all the students and b) her eyes were still closed. My daughter, absolutely mortified and horrified simultaneously, pushed me away, grabbed the computer and told me never to darken her class door again. So that was how I was fired from my oversight role, quite unceremoniously I might add, with no indications on whether I would ever be allowed to sit in on a class again.
Anyway my man of the match was the kid who, given the last five minutes of the class to speak, shouted out “Miss, are we going to have an online class party on closing day?” Bless his social distanced heart.
When we get to the other side of this “C” word, one thing for sure is that we will all collectively appreciate the fact that with the right infrastructure for power, computers and printers, it is possible to get all the children in Kenya to have access to quality education. This does not necessarily require government intervention, rather, private sector initiatives that are always looking for ways to increase impactful corporate social responsibility.
Working closely with an academic institution that can provide teaching resources, corporates can adopt a school in a remote area, provide solar power capability as well as a large screen for the lessons, few computers for downloading teaching materials, printing paper for answer sheets, and a couple of scanning machines to scan the worksheets back to the urban teacher.
It may sound simplistic on paper, but as a parent who’s had to go through this for the last few weeks, it is a deeply impactful challenge worth cracking.