E-learning has been a popular topic this year as we all tried to adapt to the effects of the Covid19 pandemic. With gatherings prohibited the education process was threatened as 9500 schools were closed in Zimbabwe.
Globally a third of the world’s schoolchildren were unable to access remote learning according to a UNICEF report. As we come to the end of this trying year let’s look back to the e-learning journey Zimbabwe has taken in all its glory.
In April of 2020, UNICEF and Microsoft expanded the global learning platform Learning Passport. The pandemic hit just as LP was about to be launched as a pilot programme, but realising the grave situation the platform was expanded. The expansion allowed for all countries with a curriculum able to be taught online to be able to facilitate online learning. A platform from all my research I have yet to see our authorities take advantage of.
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Agricolleges international launched a short course that aimed its material, not at just children but adults as well. The short course, Joys of Life is designed to help individuals deal with the demands and challenges of everyday life.
The course takes a behaviour development approach, designed to address a balance of three areas that are Knowledge, Attitude and Skills. One has to admit that the course was launched at the right time.
It’s safe to say our government was in no way prepared for this disaster of a year, while other nations simply switched to e-learning, Zimbabwe had to sit and figure out how this was going to be possible. The lucky few with internet access got to stay on top of their schooling but for the majority who can’t afford Wi-Fi and even the devices to use were left behind.
Instant messaging app Whatsapp assisted in particular for Zimbabwe, teachers managed to send out as much as they could on the app. But unfortunately, even with 8 million Whatsapp users in Zimbabwe, the reality is not all students have access to smartphones, tablets or any gadget of any sort.
Some fortunate enough to be DSTV subscribers with South African account managed to benefit from the DSTV and Udemy partnership that gave customers access through the DSTV App to 600 courses.
Econet attempted to aid the situation by introducing an e-learning bundle that was cheaper than ordinary bundles. The bundle was aimed at schools, who would purchase the bundles and distribute to their teachers and students to facilitate online learning. Unfortunately, that turned into a disaster when Econet employees were now selling these discounted bundles on the black market to individuals. The bundles were discontinued when it was announced schools were opening in September.
More tailored to the crisis of Zim e-learning a few platforms have emerged like Dzidzo Paden|Imfundwe’ndlini. The WhatsApp automated chatbot distributes academic resources to learners on the instant messaging app. This chatbot makes the issue of accessibility of education better as it is on a platform popular to Zim with about 8million users.
A fairly new to the scene platform is the Smooth Lectures that offers educational material for ZIMSEC’s new curriculum for O-level and A-level science subjects. The site offers an array of services from notes to past exam papers and exam tips. There is a need for more educational sites that cater to the Zimbabwean education system as covid-19 cases in schools continue to rise.
While officials continue to tiptoe around the issue, schools are at risk. Back in November, a boarding school in Matebeleland North was shut down after at least 100 students tested positive for Covid19. This month 2 more schools have been closed down as more students are testing positive for Covid19.
Furthermore, with the Progressive Teachers Union(PTUZ) reporting that over 10 000 teachers have resigned from their jobs between September and December 2020. Despite the pay issue pushing many Zimbabwean teachers over the edge the government’s failure to prioritise the health and safety of teachers and students has pushed some to leave teaching altogether.
PTUZ fears by January 2021 the number could have risen to 20 000. It looks like we are going to have to learn to live with this virus as it’s not going away. With stakes this high authorities will have to put some effort into an e-learning initiative that serves All school children. Take up Learning Passport on its inclusivity of all countries.
On one hand, face to face teaching proves unsafe with COVID-19 cases rising since the reopening of schools, on the other e-learning at the moment for all Zimbabwe’s students is just not possible because of a variety of reasons.
The uncertainty of 2020’s ending is stressful as we all don’t know what to expect but let’s try to enjoy the holidays as there will be more than enough time to stress in 2021 as the schooling crisis in Zim continues.