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Aminatu Abdulai joined the Africa's Tomorrow community in 2015 and started her college career in the US at Montgomery College in Maryland in 2018. Aminatu is studying pre-medicine and is preparing to transfer to a 4-year college, soon. She shared her experience of having her coursework suddenly transferred online and how this compares to her friends at 4-year universities in her home country of Ghana.
What has it been like away from campus?
It has been really stressful, the online classes. The amount of assignments has increased! The ability for us to learn everything means the work has increased, and it's so hard, you spend the whole day, 24 hours, working on assignments.
They increase in work is because they took off the exams. So, as a student, you have to study for exams normally, and since there aren't exams any more, they want to see your critical thinking in the assignments, so they've added more.
How has your access to the courses you need changed?
I'm only left with two semesters and the summer and I was planning to take Calculus and the internship in the summer but the internship is off, now, and I don't feel like I can do the math without support, so I won't be able to take it on the schedule that I had planned.
We have tutors, but if it's not in-person it's not going to work. I'll be focusing on other things and it won't work. Online, I study everything by myself. But going to class and meeting the professor is so much better for me. I don't really like the distractions around the house, I don't really focus, and for math, even with tutoring, that isn't going to work for me.
What did you access on campus that you can't now?
The biggest thing for me is the access to my professors, because the in-person class where you can listen and everyone can participate is really different.
Some of the books we need are not e-books we can't access them online now that we are home; they are only in the library so you can't really access those anymore. For those classes where had the books in the library, I used to go to the library and sit with the book and give it back, but now I've had to order them on Amazon because the only way is to have the book, and now I can't sit in the library.
So I've had expenses that I didn't expect because I had to buy these. For example, I had to order my chemistry textbook where we just go and use it and put it back, and those are really expensive. Some, like philosophy was really cheap, but this one for chemistry was really expensive - it was over $300 for the one book.
I also most of the time use the desktops at school. I have a laptop but it's hard to do all my work on it. I considered buying a desktop but for now I'm just managing with the old laptop.
What about your household - I know you live with a family member of the person who nominated you and another Africa's Tomorrow scholar (graduate). What has that been like?
That has not been stressful at all. Just that I really prefer being in a class where everyone can participate. To be in my room alone, is not nearly as good. You just get tired of sitting there alone with someone talking to you.
What's your daily routine like?
Taking 10,000 steps every day! I can't even do an assignment if I don't go outside and exercise, my brain is stopped inside the room.
What do you hear about access to education at home in Ghana?
I have friends who were in 4-year colleges and they are completely shut down, so that's very sad for me. Those who were going to graduate will have to extend another semester to finish those courses.
Over here in the US the education system is more advanced, the fact that they can just switch to online is a big plus. Back home it can't be that way, you just have to stop school and go back whenever you can. If this virus is going to take a whole year, then those students will be out of school for a whole year, just sitting at home. That's a really big difference between going to college in Ghana versus here in the US.
Africa's Tomorrow, at the heart, is about opening up access to education. What else should people know about how your access to education has changed?
The shut-down, it has really affected my whole education. My courses - the labs are out. When you have to be in the lab to work with the chemicals to know how it works, now the school just gives us students the data to write the lab reports, and we, as students, are losing a lot from it. Not having that lab experience will be a huge gap in our knowledge. At the same time there is a lot of pressure on us to do more assignments while we are learning less from them.
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