POTRAZ measures to facilitate e-learning for rural & underserved communities

Valentine Muhamba Avatar

The Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has today given a progress report on a number of ICT initiatives to facilitate e-learning that preceded the COVID-19 Pandemic, those that were held during the height of the pandemic and projects planned for 2021. Information about this was made public during presentations of oral evidence at a joint portfolio meeting on ICT, Postal and Courier Services that was held this morning.

The projects that were run by POTRAZ were in conjunction with the Universal Services Fund (USF).

The connect a school connect a community project

This project was launched in 2014 and was gave 60 rural schools with 80 laptops for students and 10 tutor personal computers. The program also included solar power supplies, projectors and screens.

ProvinceTotal Schools that benefittedNo. of Primary SchoolsNo. of Secondary Schools
Matebeleland South633
Matebeleland North633
Mash West844
Mash East844
Mash Central844

Connect a School Connect a Community which concluded in 2016 is a program that POTRAZ expects to assist schools that were beneficiaries through the pandemic.

1300 ZARNet Connectivity Project

Held in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Academic Research Network (ZARNet), Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) and the USF this project was aimed at providing 1300 schools with internet connectivity. The project also included the provision of functional websites with e-learning materials, VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) telephones, email services and e-learning video conferencing facilities.

The project was split into 2 phases and to date, 800 schools have been beneficiaries of the program.

Phase 1

ProvinceTotal Schools that benefitted (Primary &SecondaryNo. of ComputersPrintersProjectorsServers
Matebeleland South33263   
Matebeleland North26270   
Manicaland50800 1 
Mash West274802  
Mash East38453   
Mash Central70645511
Masvingo546215 1

The first phase of the project, which ran from 2017 to 2019, provided 4332 computers disbursed to 405 schools. Other devices distributed in this program included 17 printers, 3 projectors and 2 servers.

Phase 2

Commencement of phase 2 started in 2020 and it is currently ongoing. In 2020 the program was able to distribute 570 computers to 57 schools.

ProvinceTotal Schools that benefitted (Primary &SecondaryNo. of ComputersPrinters
Matebeleland South141400
Matebeleland North330 
Mash West5500
Mash East9900
Mash Central5500

The project is also now providing schools with an internet connection through a recently awarded contract to an unnamed internet service provider (the assumption is that it is TelOne). The connectivity contract will supply internet to 100 schools across the country.

POTRAZ has also set resources aside to provide internet connectivity to 180 schools as well as 20 laptops to each of the schools to improve e-learning access.

POTRAZ COVID-19 intervention for Universities

POTRAZ is currently in negotiations with the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (ZIMCHE), where the authority will provide financial assistance. The funds will be for establishing a Digital Inclusion and Information Portal for Zimbabwe Universities.

The Information Portal will host a number of courses that are common to the various universities or that are used as information courses by members of the community. Under this project, students will make use of Community Information Centres that are closer to their homes to access course material.

Measures to improve internet connectivity

POTRAZ has over the years been rolling out CICs (Community Information Centres) across the country. To date, there are 146 CICs that have been commissioned and are operational.

Number of CICs/CVICs Distribution by Province

ProvinceNo. of CICsNo. of CVICs
Harare211 (Demonstration Unit)
Matabeleland South121
Matabeleland North112
Mashonaland Central114
Mashonaland East122
Mashonaland West183

3G base stations

The Postal and Telecommunications Authority (POTRAZ) has announced that it will be 4 new base stations be rolled out in 2021.

Matabeleland SouthChikwarakwara
Mashonaland CentralNyatsatso
Mashonaland WestMola

The selection of these sites was through investigations done by POTRAZ (by way of its countrywide coverage map). Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) will now be able to offer 3G coverage in the above areas.

In addition to the base stations POTRAZ, through the USF will also be deploying a 120 KM fiber link from Rutenga to Chikombedzi. The link will allow Internet Service Providers to provide better internet speeds in these underserved areas.

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