Rural schools side-lined in online learning – Teachers

Learners in rural areas are being left in their studies during the lockdown period as they have limited to no access to online learning platforms, Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ) has said.

ARTUZ made the remarks through a statement issued to commemorate the International Day of Education, Monday, under the theme “Recover and Revitalise Education for the Covid-19 Generation.”

Spokesperson of the Union, Nation Mudzitirwa said the majority of learners and teachers in rural areas do not have reliable access to the internet because of lack of infrastructure.

Schools in Zimbabwe remained closed for the greater part of last year since March owing to the need to curb the spread of Covid-19 virus in the country.

The government late last year opened the facilities to examination classes to allow for learners to sit their examinations.

Mudzitirwa said the union, which is mostly focused on rural education, felt the decision by the Ministry of Education to proceed with examinations despite loss of learning was a serious violation of the right to education and defeated the purpose of the idea of: “Leave No Child Behind.”

“The beneficiaries of the proposed e-learning model have been the children of elites who have unlimited access to the internet. The ignorance shown by the Ministry in refusing to acknowledge and listen to advice on alternative ways of teaching and making education accessible to everyone is also a strong factor in the current crisis the nation is facing,” Mudzitirwa said.

“It is an undeniable fact that rural education has been suffering a lot and the situation has been made worse by Covid-19 induced lockdowns; schools have dilapidated. There is no electricity in most school districts, no proper internet infrastructure and hence the idea of e-learning will be construed as a structure of the elites.”

The Union bemoaned that Zimbabwe’s education was locked in a crisis of under- funding, state repression and now reeling under the devastating impact of Covid-19.

Mudzitirwa recommended that the first step towards revitalising education during the Covid-19 generation is the setting up and creation of the Educational Equalisation Fund that should be the enzyme bridging the gap between urban and rural schools with the intention of fostering balance between the level and quality of education.

“The logic of setting up and increasing educational broadcasting should be a top priority as the step is less expensive and has a way of reaching even the most remote places and accessible to even those who cannot access the internet,” he said.

“Conducting lessons in such a way is a reliable method and can improve quality of education and a step up can be taken of creating an educational channel sorely dedicated to providing educational lessons especially to children in primary and secondary schools.”

Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE)