COVID-19 Project: Information Seeking Behavior of Secondary School Students during the Lockdown in Uganda
This study addresses the need to effectively meet the information needs of secondary school students during the lockdown in Uganda. When the President of the Republic of Uganda directed that all schools be closed schools on 20th March 2020, students at all levels had to undergo home-schooling. The Ministry of Education and Sports and some schools developed learning materials to facilitate home-schooling during the lockdown. However, access to school libraries is not possible and consequently, there is limited access to information resources necessary for effective study and learning. Students have to study independently at home but the question of how they access the necessary information resources to supplement their studies remains unanswered. This study sought to establish the information seeking behavior of secondary school students during the lockdown, what sources they use, the challenges they face and thus has proposed a framework for providing library and information services to home-schooling secondary school students during the lockdown in Uganda. The study was guided by the Wilson’s and Krieklas’ model(1999) of Information Seeking. The model attempts to describe the process a user follows to satisfy an information need. It takes into account the user’s previous information-seeking experience. The user uses the tools that are most familiar and easy to use that find results. The model not only applies in the library context but also to any information-seeking activity just like the one in which homeschooling secondary school students are at the moment.
A survey was carried out in five districts including Kyenjojo, Sironko, Mukono, Dokolo and Nakapiripirit representing the four major regions of Uganda. Given the timing of this project, choice of districts was based on the ease with which we could identify EASLIS students in the districts, who would serve as research assistants/guides and ease entry into the communities. These were non-border districts and had not registered any COVID-19 case. Based on a total secondary school student population of 1,370,583 (UBOS, 2018) we targeted a sample size of 384 (Krejcie & Morgan table (1970). However, the enthusiasm of the students resulted in collecting data from 446 respondents from 22 sub-counties. Data was collected using self-administered questionnaires. Convenience sampling and snowball sampling was used to select individual survey participants. Majority of the respondents (87.9%) were O level students and only 12.1% were A level, students.
3.1 How Secondary School Students seek/obtain information during the lockdown
It was important to establish whether students were study while at home before ascertaining how they sought information to supplement their learning activities. The study established that 23.77% were using print study materials, 34.53% used television, while 51.57% used radio. However, 84.97% indicated that the learning materials were not adequate. Reasons given included inadequate Content (42.95%); inadequate explanations (33.89%), subjects are not balanced (18.12%) and insufficient media Time/Timing for Lessons (5.03%). Thus, 90.4% indicated that they needed more information to supplement their study and learning during the lockdown.
Students Information Needs
Students’ information needs included information about COVID-19, sports, entrepreneurship, counselling, current affairs, religious information, fashion, design and academic information (school schedules, subject-specific information, examinations, etc.)
Information Seeking Practice
Students sought information by:
- Consulted information sources with a purpose in mind (74.82%)
- Using radio/television (74.21%)
- Collaborating with others (73%)
- Using others to seek information on their behalf (59.3%)
- Accidentally encountering with information (54.5%).
- Using the internet (32.2%)
- Using social media (31.1%)
On whether the students had been guided or trained on how to seek or find information especially from various electronic resources, the study established that 27.6% had received such training while 72.4% had not. Even though the 27.6% had indicated they had received the training, 33.08% of them could not tell where they got the training. 34.59% had been trained by their schools, parents/relative (23.31%), through self-study (5.26%) and neighbours (3.76%).
3.2 Information Sources used by Secondary School Students during the Lockdown
The information sources used regularly by students included; personal notes (60.08%), radio (24%), personal textbooks (23%) and television (15.02%). The rest of the information sources included Internet (8.74%) and newspapers (6.27%).
Students that were satisfied with personal notes were 51.56%, those satisfied with personal textbook were 27.57%, radio (19.73%), television (15.69%) and newspapers (8.74%).
Majority (91.03%) were not satisfied with the nearby library as an alternative source of information. The low level of satisfaction with nearby library is attributed to the absence of public libraries in the districts. Only, two students expressed awareness about the existence of a nearby public library (Lira Public Library) which was located over 50km from their homes.
3.3 Challenges/Hindrances faced by Secondary School Students in accessing information resources
Students’ access to information is constrained by a number of challenges including lack of access to a nearby library/resource centre (92.15%), high cost of data bundles and OTT tax (83.85%), lack of access to the Internet (72.64%), lack of access to ICTs e.g. computers, smartphones, printing and photocopying services (70.85%), failure to find the relevant information easily (68.60%), inadequate information literacy skills (60.53%), insufficient knowledge of how to use a library/electronic resources (54.93%), lack of access to reading materials while at home (54.48%), lack of access to electricity (59.64%) and lack of appropriate reading space (24.21%).
High cost of radio batteries, unclear timetable for radio and television lessons, travelling long distances to sub counties to collect the study materials were hindrances to accessing information by the students.
Suggestions by the students to overcome the above challenges include:
- Parents reducing on domestic work to allow more time for study
- Allocation of more time for lessons on Television and Radios
- Dissemination of the radio/television study timetable
- Establishment of community libraries
- ICT infrastructure development
- Alternative energy sources
- Reduce the cost of Internet access and OTT
The closure of schools created an information gap for the learners. Information resources that used to be provided by the school libraries to support their studies, cannot be accessed, while at home.
While studying away from school, 90.4% needed more information and support. In addition, this study has revealed a low level of information literacy level among the students. While at school, school libraries / teacher librarians would guide access to information resources including how to utilize electronic information resources.
Even with the availability of different information sources like newspapers, radio, Internet, television, personal or borrowed textbooks, students mainly used personal notes (60.08%), followed by textbooks (24%) and radio (23%). The absence of nearby libraries resulted into 90.8% of the students not using libraries as an alternative information source.
Only a few (6.50%) had been supported by their school libraries through book borrowing, distribution of learning materials and provision of reading space.
Therefore, students’ access to information during the lockdown is constrained and this calls for measures to address this information gap and thus support effective study and learning during the lockdown and future pandemics.
Proposed Framework through which Library and Information Services can be provided to Secondary School Students during the Lockdown
The proposed framework for enabling access to library and information services to secondary school students during a pandemic is depicted in the figure below:
Fig 1: Proposed Framework for provision of Library and Information Services to Learners
The Government of Uganda should
- Establish an information literacy programme for learners’ independent study and learning.
- Ensure that regardless of closure of schools, Library and Information Services should be provided to the learners through digital and mobile library services
Uganda Communications Commission (UCC), through the Rural Communication Development Fund (RCDF), should provide funding for the realization of the proposed framework.
The Project Team
The Project team comprised researchers from the East African School of Library and Information Science under the College of Computing and Information Sciences, Makerere University.
Dr. Joyce Bukirwa Principal Investigator
Ms. Lois Mutibwa Researcher
Ms. Faridah Muzaki Researcher
Mr. Richard Batte Researcher
Mr. Aloysius Ssenono Mwanje Researcher
Dr. David Luyombya Researcher
We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (RIF) Special COVID-19 call.