It’s now part of the Zimbabwean political cycle- Every new Minister of Education comes in with a string of policies that are meant to radically revamp the way young minds are shaped with hopes that this will positively impact the future of the nation.
From dropping colonial names, enforcing History and ethnic languages to the banning of extra lessons each policy is meant to give our children a better education delivery system.
It stands to reason that as a country that has the highest literacy rate in Africa we have to do more than just take pride in past achievements but maintain that lead.One way of doing this is having reforms that promote IT as the centre piece of education. However this hasn’t been the case as it seems tech education is only viewed as an after thought.
The latest raft of changes for education have a broader scope that includes higher and tertiary education and the ministerial focus on Psychomotor Skills. At face value it seems tech is a big consideration here when you look at practical skills development and tertiary education reform. But reality tells a different story.
A report in the Herald was highlighting how there has been a shift in policy on the enrollment of student teachers into teachers’ colleges. Applicants now need one science subject as a prerequisite for admission into these training institutions.
As uncomfortable as the change will be it has merits that come with its increased focus on sciences. STEM subjects are a key component in the development of minds that can execute any ambitious economic turnaround plan and their inclusion starts with measures like this.
Sadly there is no mention of how IT should be a prerequisite for applying to a teacher training programme. This isn’t to say that the classrooms need teachers equipped with advanced coding and database skills-far from it. What is necessary though is an engagement of educators who are ready to take on the next frontier of knowledge delivery through digital learning.
The old approach to education is being redefined by the adoption of tools and methods that are part of the digital era. This calls for a lot of investment and commitment from everyone involved. Last week eLearning Solutions, a local digital solutions provider launched an mlearning solution which allows teachers to create content for the platform.
With the several opportunities that this brings, eLearning Solutions representatives mentioned how they have had to work on introducing IT skills to the numerous teachers who lack the appreciation. With a reach that has come to 2,000 teachers in this exercise, this figure is a far cry from the huge teaching staff complement we have in the civil service, something that the Minister of Education who was the guest of honour at the launch was quick to point out himself.
To put it plainly there is a lot of work to be done to ensure that everyone leading a classroom of children is digitally literate. There is only so much progress that can be made by private sector players and developing (and enacting) policies that promote this would go a long way in providing a solution.
Another policy instituted this year was the introduction of Agriculture as a primary school subject. According to Ministry officials this was necessitated by the fact that Zimbabwe is an agro-based economy.
Lest I am labeled a sellout of the agricultural revolution i need to be clear about how I support initiatives that develop children’s practical skills – agriculture included. However a look at where the world is going shows how we need to be more aggressive in encouraging the uptake of IT skills at every level of education more than any other field.
This approach will obviously come at a price. This was what prompted the National e-Learning Program and assuming that it has met some success there is no reason why we can’t have IT as a compulsory component of education at all levels.
In 2012 the then Minister of ICT mentioned how the objective was to reach all the 8,000 schools in Zimbabwe with IT facilities by 2015. This was part of a vision held by the President for computer literacy for all children. As ambitious as it was then it is still relevant today. There should be pronouncement and policy that supports this with IT front and centre of education reform.