Dr. Bonny Betson is the Deputy Principal of Academics, Research, and Consultancy at Tanga College of Health Allied Science (TACOHAS).
When COVID-19 first emerged in Tanzania, schools and universities shut down immediately. Dr. Betson was quick to respond and instrumental to his community during the quarantine. Dental therapy education is rigorous and pausing the education indefinitely can result in students’ knowledge and skills to deteriorate.
As a longtime educator, Dr. Betson knew immediately he had to figure out a way to continue to deliver education to hundreds of dental therapists out of the classroom due to the pandemic.
Dr. Betson collaborated with the Ministry of Health, Community Development, Gender, Elderly and Children, fellow doctors, and training institutes to develop dental e-learning material for dental therapy students to use distance learning in order to continue instruction.
Dr. Betson and his colleagues tailored e-learning material to improve students' engagement while out of the classroom."Online learning tools and social media have made it easy for dental therapy students to maintain the social component of group learning," states Dr. Betson. Through social media, dental therapy students can interact with each other and ask questions and get feedback from their professors, facilitating the learning process.
Distance learning solutions are on the rise globally. According to the World Economic Forum, more than 1.2 billion students are affected by school closures due to the pandemic. E-learning programs have become a critical way to continue education, and to ultimately prepare the next generation of leaders in oral health.
Since 2016, Dr. Betson has been a key organizational partner in MCW's Dental Therapy Outreach Training Program in Tanga. From 2017 to 2019, Dr. Betson supervised the University of Illinois Chicago (UIC) dental outreach exchange program at the Tanga Dental Therapy School and represented Tanzania in 2019 at the Global Child Dental Fund Senior Dental Leadership Program. His stewardship has been instrumental in ensuring high-quality practical and leadership training for future leaders in community oral health.