By Leopold Munhende
GOVERNMENT’s electronic learning facilities have been a challenge for learners without access to technology, with unstable home environments and those bearing the brunt of Zimbabwe’s economic woes, the Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) has said.
In its policy brief on the Covid-19 impact on learning in the country, titled “Access to Education in the midst of Global Pandemics: Policy Lessons”, RAU argues some schools lacked the technological infrastructure to provide e-learning, yet government maintains learning must go ahead.
“Remote learning has been difficult for students who also have to deal with challenges such as learning disabilities, economic hardships, or unstable home environments, many of these students will struggle to thrive in a remote environment where they lack hands-on guidance, emotional support and access to technology,” reads the report.
“Remote learning has been particularly challenging for elementary school students. Younger children need a level of guidance, social interaction, and tactile-learning opportunities that are difficult to replicate in an online classroom.
“What closing elementary schools has proved is that working mothers can be devastated.
“Ministry of Education should design a return that fits the local context. Educators strive to create an ideal learning environment for every student, but the realities of budgets, time, and talent constraints require a dose of realism.
“Some school systems lack the digital infrastructure, resources, or local expertise to roll out online learning.
“For them, the ideal remote-learning model may combine the use of the mass media, simple phone-messaging apps, and paper handouts.”
After initially suspending all learning across the country towards the end of last year, government brought back learners in a phased approach and emphasised on e-learning as a way to go.
RAU states a solution on how education should go forward cannot only come from government but a unified approach with teachers, parents and students.
Adds the brief: “Teachers are frontline professionals who should play an integral role in the design of the learning process in the Covid-19 context.
“At the local level, school systems and leaders need to invest significant time in listening to the concerns of teachers and working jointly with them to create solutions, strong community involvement is a recommendation of many experts in dealing with Covid-19.”
Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU) secretary general Tapiwa Chiriga told NewZimbabwe.com some students still did not even know what e-learning is.
“It is of no use to have a coherent plan that excludes the majority,” he said.
“The majority still cannot afford data or the devices needed for one to be part and parcel of it all.
“There are actually students out there who do not even know about these new technologies being used at schools.”
The students’ union wants schools to provide students with data.