Teachers ask govt for free data to conduct online classes but is this the solution?

Valentine Muhamba Avatar
teachers free data PTUZ Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe e-learning Zimbabwe remote learning

Teachers have approached the government asking for free data that would allow them to access online resources and platforms in order to conduct online lessons during the lockdown. In a report by NewsDzeZimbabwe, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) has said that there is still a lot that can be done to help teachers and students.

PTUZ noted the government’s efforts in initiating radio and television lessons for students in some areas of the country. However, the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe feels that a free data initiative can help with a more bespoke learning experience.

“There is a need for new pedagogical methods of learning rather than face to face learning. The earlier government embraces teachers’ initiatives of class and subject WhatsApp learning while pupils are in their homes, the better. We, therefore, urge government to provide data bundles to teachers and use money donated by organisations like United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) to acquire learning gadgets that can assist pupils from poor background and those living with disability to effectively learn through WhatsApp lessons”

Takavafira Zhou, Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ), President via NewsDzeZimbabwe

I agree with Zhou’s sentiments because students learn in different ways and at different paces. Radio and Television lessons are great but they don’t specifically cater to the individual’s learning needs. This is also compounded by the issue that not every household has a television or radio set.

Similarly, mobile devices that can run WhatsApp and other software are also scarce and expensive. I also have my doubts that there is enough money in donations from international organisations to ensure that students in low-income households can get a device in order to attend virtual classes be it WhatsApp or any other platform. This is saying nothing of the cost of data that those families would need to include in their budgets.

It’s also worth mentioning that this issue isn’t unique to Zimbabwe. According to a report by Human Rights Watch, an estimated 1.4 billion students were shut out of pre-primary, primary, and secondary schools in more than 190 countries in 2020 because of lockdowns.

If free data for teachers is the way then the same should apply to students, right?

Possible solutions

Now, I have to admit from the jump that there is no easy solution to bridge the e-learning/online lesson divide for underprivileged learners. Measures like TV and radio lessons have been used the world over to try and increase access. Other countries like the Ivory Coast and others have implemented lessons that are available via SMS in order to go beyond the smartphone.

Another measure could be to have more zero-rated education sites, but this does little for those outside the reach of internet services. Donation of learning materials from the public and schools that have resources to spare is another way to tackle the problem. However, doesn’t solve the issue of teachers being in contact with their students. Additionally, it means that parents have to supervise their child’s education which is difficult while trying to earn a living.

As you can see there are a number of variables in this quandary and I would very much like to hear your thoughts in comments. I am confident that there are those in the Techzim community that can help with brainstorming this problem.

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Cover Image Credit: Global Press Journal

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  1. The Gray Analyst¤

    I believe this can be solved if the government gives both teachers and students bundles. The government should be the ones funding this, not well wishers or donations. I remember them saying they have a surplus so thry should use it. They should also build libraries in communal/rural areas where the pupils that don’t have a TV or radio or phone at home can go and learn there. There should be computers for them to access online learning. Or maybe online learning centres in rural areas. With internet access for e-learning.

    Our government shouldn’t mess this up. We really need education in our country.

  2. NJM

    Why not use Techzim website since it is Data free as e learning platform.Another thing what if we have our own telecommunication company in zimbabwe which will be controled by people of Zimbabwe. If Strive Masiyiwa made it, we as Zimbabweans we will make it possible ( no offence )

  3. tafadzwa

    i work at a company called Gotronics and we have create an offline platform that is helping students in rural areas. We are trying to engage the government but their hierarchical system are a big limitation

  4. Imi vanhu musadaro

    I think different solutions apply to different areas, there’s no single blanket solution that will work across the board. We are in a situation equivalent to a sudden crippling drought, some areas already had water reservoirs (Internet access, TV broadcast), some already had the pipes (required devices phone or TV), whilst other areas had neither (no Internet, no devices). So, some areas will need boreholes (Internet Access Points) and piping, whilst others just need water pumped into their existing pipes (Data).

    The problem is they are trying a one solution for all approach, which won’t work. Then there are those that quick to raise alarm, “if teachers use Zoom/WhatsApp what about those that aren’t on it?” They will have to have a solution crafted for their needs, but it shouldn’t mean those that can learn should be held back. Hence, at one point some rural schools were teaching, because lockdown and COVID were mainly affecting urban folk.

    1. 🖤Bvumavaranda🖤

      On point. There’s no umbrella solution that will be applicable to everyone but let’s welcome many solutions that cater for different people with varying circumstances