Gvt Urged to Prioritise E-learning in Marginalised areas

Learners, teachers and parents in Nkayi have implored the government to prioritise marginalised communities under its much vaunted e-learning Strategy. This comes hard on the heels of an e-learning strategy update from the government in its Post-Cabinet briefing earlier this week.

The Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Hon. Jenfan Muswere tabled his ministry’s national strategy for e-learning which was accepted by Cabinet. In the strategy, the ministry laid plans to accelerate connectivity in schools as well as develop adequate technological capacity in learners and educators regardless of geographical location through the provision of free internet services to 400 schools that already have internet connectivity but are encountering difficulties in paying monthly bandwidth subscriptions.

“The schools will be provided with data for 9 months, an additional 180 rural schools will have been connected by the end of 2021 and will benefit from the same initiative,” read part of the Post-Cabinet Briefing released by Monica Mutsvangwa, Minister of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services.

While welcoming the government’s initiative, Sfanele Dube, who resides at Nkayi Centre highlighted that the move would be more effective if less privileged areas such as Nkayi were prioritised.

“Such plans are noble and welcome but these would have a greater impact to society if the least developed places are considered first. Nkayi has below 50% connectivity on average and the majority of primary schools in the district have no internet connection nor computers,” she said.

Under the strategy, the government has also pledged to continue providing free access to internet services to everyone at Community Information Centres and Community Village Information Centres to curb the financial hardships brought by the COVID-19 outbreak. Operational expenses are also to be met by the government, inclusive of staff renumeration for the next 9 months. However printing, scanning and photocopying services will attract a “reasonable” cost.

The Government’s statement was corroborated by Miss Mkhwananzi, an official manning the Nkayi Community Village Information Centre who revealed that the Centre is offering free internet services to the general public.

“Free internet services are free for Nkayi residents until the 31st of December 2021 courtesy of POTRAZ in its bid to curb the effects of Covid-19. We are also offering printing services at a low cost,” said Mkhwananzi.

Hudson Clive Tshuma, a student from Hlangabeza High School in Nkayi appreciated the benefits of a local information centre and said he hopes for more of such services that benefit learners.

“Data is costly nowadays and our parents are financially strained, considering the difficult economic situation in our country, therefore these information centres are key to us making contact with our teachers for online lessons as well as for research. We are also hoping for other benefits like free data for learners or at least very low internet charges and student bundles to allow connectivity at any time,” said the visibly excited student.

The government reiterated that all the initiatives around the e-learning strategy will be implemented through the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ). The e-learning strategy will be complemented by the UNICEF GIGA schools Connectivity Project.

“The project, which is a response to the Covid-19 pandemic by UNICEF and the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), has the following pillars: raising funds for schools connectivity, mapping the connectivity status of every school, connecting the unconnected and poorly connected schools to the internet; and linking connected schools and young people to digital public goods,” read part of the government’s statement.

A primary school teacher, Mr Godknows Moyo concurred with Dube as he also opined that it would make more sense for the government to adopt a ‘worst to best type of approach’ in improving connectivity, where the poorest schools and provinces are granted priority.

“Credit to the government for coming up with such a brilliant initiative.However, a more credible way of implementing the strategy would be to map out a worst to best type of approach where more resources are channeled to least privileged areas.

A number of provinces in Zimbabwe already have 3G and satellite wireless conectivity in their remote corners but Matabeleland in general needs a boost. It might sound funny but in parts of Nkayi like Somthanyelo and Singeni there are children who have not so much as seen a computer. There is need for drastic intervention and this could be the opportune time for that,” said Moyo.

The overall objective of GIGA in Zimbabwe is to connect every school to the internet and afford every young person access to information. The GIGA project will be rolled out in all provinces. Nkayi residents have their fingers crossed as they hope for the government to put their internet connectivity misery to bed.

Source: Community Podium

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