- For decades, Zimbabwe’s education system has been hailed as being a notch above the rest
- The provision of the necessary technology to learners and teachers helped maintain a high pass rate
- Throughout the Covid-19 induced lockdowns FACT, Zimbabwe supported over ten thousand learners with smartphones in Manicaland for US$349,570
For decades, Zimbabwe’s education system has been hailed as being a notch above the rest, especially in Africa.
This sentiment has made the country a preferred destination for education beating countries like South Africa and Kenya. Rwanda, last year said it was looking to employ Zimbabwean teachers to plug its deficit.
Technology has changed the way we communicate as it enables instantaneous interactions. Zimbabwe has realized the significance of technology and the competitive advantage in working to become a knowledge-based society.
The use of technology in the education sector allowed school children and even college students to learn within and beyond the classroom. According to UNESCO, technology benefits the entire learning process from ubiquitous access to libraries of electronic books, instant feedback, and progress monitoring.
The vigorous use of technology was necessitated by the emergence of Covid-19 which had adverse ramifications on the Zimbabwean education system in terms of learner outcomes. As far as 2021 University World News published an article where the Zimbabwe University Vice-Chancellors Association Chairman Professor Eddie Mwenje said Covid-19 restrictions force universities to adopt a blended learning system.
“The advent of the coronavirus allowed the higher education sector to embrace modern teaching technologies much faster than normally would have happened,” he said.
UNESCO stressed that the closure of schools due to the pandemic reversed some previous gains made in areas such as literacy and numeracy.
In an article published by The Herald on March 30, 2022, Mutare district schools inspector for urban schools Edson Mapungwana said the provision of the necessary technology to learners and teachers helped maintain a high pass rate.
“This enabled the lessons to continue during the lockdown. Our learners benefited a lot, helped us a lot. The schools where FACT Zimbabwe made these interventions during the lockdown era kept their pass rate high,” he said.
Mapungwana added that online learning had a positive impact on children and blocked them from drug and substance abuse.
“This had a positive impact on children since they had to spend most of their time on schoolwork, a move which blocked them from indulging in unorthodox activities like drug and substance abuse and sexual activities,” he said.
He said this on a media tour organized by Family Aids Caring Trust Zimbabwe (FACT) a Christian-based organization. Throughout the Covid-19 induced lockdowns FACT, Zimbabwe supported over ten thousand learners with smartphones in Manicaland for US $349 570. This gave learners access to virtual learning platforms and participation in homework club activities in line with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) blended learning approaches.
From 2020 many institutions could not conduct contact face-to-face learning and switch to virtual learning. However, the new mode of learning was spurned by students, who described it as elitist and expensive.
Challenges in using technology in education
According to a report by Edtech Hub, challenges that inhibit the effective use of technology in education in Zimbabwe include limited power supply, financial resources for Edutech-related programs, low broadband, lack of equipment, coverage in rural areas, and a lack of awareness and skill in effectively integrating technology in teaching, to improve learning outcomes.
In a related article by University World News, Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU), the biggest student union, Secretary-general Tapiwanashe Chiriga raised some concerns which showed some challenges in the use of technology.
“As long as institutions continue to charge full fees and not provide data bundles for poor students, education will remain beyond the access of many students,” he said.
However, the Government’s commitment to the use of technology in education is apparent through the initiatives it has implemented over the years, and more through the development of the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) Policy for Primary and Secondary Education.
Meanwhile, last year the Chronicle published an interview with Ruckus Wireless’s sales director for sub-Saharan Africa, Micheal Fletcher. The interview was on unpacking the significance and benefits of embracing ICTs in Zimbabwe’s education sector. Fletcher said an educated nation is the backbone of any country’s economy.
He added that Africa as a developing continent and countries individually had made efforts and strides in improving competitiveness. Zimbabwe is not far behind. So, indeed embracing technology in the education sector can maintain and improve the sector’s competitiveness as the world shifts.
“I don’t think Zimbabwe has been that far behind other African countries. The challenge has been a lack of a clear and dedicated body that specifically deals with ICT in education in Zimbabwe which hinders the noble objectives. I can safely say progress has been made, as several educational facilities across the country have Wi-Fi as a service on their premises for students,” he said.
Technology and education policies and initiatives
The Government of Zimbabwe has introduced numerous initiatives promoting the use of technology in education over the last two decades. According to reports EdTech Hub, MoPSE has supported several initiatives strengthening the use of ICTs in education, such as the Schools Computerisation Programme launched in 2000, the Presidential e-Learning Programme of 2011, and the Electronic Ministry Application Platform introduced in 2016.
In 2000, the government under the late former President Robert Gabriel Mugabe launched the Presidential Schools Computerisation Programme where more than 25% of schools received computers and printers. In a related article published by The Chronicle on September 27, 2014, the then Chief Secretary to the President Dr. Misheck Sibanda said since the launch of the programme to computerize schools in 2000 nearly 1000 rural schools had benefited. He also said the initiatives were to push President Mugabe’s dream of making the southern African country an information technology hub.
“In 2000 President Mugabe embarked on the Presidential national computerization programme in the education sector. This marked the initial step towards transforming Zimbabwe’s education system by introducing information communication technology (ICT),” he said.
After a decade the Government launched the Presidential e-Learning Programme of 2011 which aimed to strengthen the use of ICTs for teaching and learning. In an article published by the Herald on March 28, 2012, former President Mugabe said the projects brought on board e-learning software solutions to complement the benefits of the Presidential Computerisation Programme launched 10 years back.
“Encouraged by the Presidential Computerization Programme, the first successful step of transforming Zimbabwe into an information society, we have now decided to go a gear up and add value to the initial programme by introducing a new dimension to it, this time, in the form of an e-learning Programme,” he said.
The Connect a School Connect a Community Project was launched in 2013, it provided disadvantaged schools with modern technology. Afterwards, Zimbabwe drafted through the Ministry of ICT, Postal, and Courier Services a National ICT Policy that acknowledges a role for ICTs in the education sector. However, while the policy is dated 2016, it was launched in 2018. In 2019 ICT Policy for Primary and Secondary Education (2019–2023) was launched and all of these show efforts by the Government to embrace technology in the education sector.
The policy states: “The Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education commits to the use of ICT as an enabler for education to create, promote and sustain the development of a knowledgeable, innovative and creative society which ultimately supports the national agenda of attaining a knowledge-based society” (Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, 2019).
According to a report by EdTech Hub, the ICT Policy for Primary and Secondary Education (2019–2023) aligns with the Constitution, Education Act, Education Sector Strategic Plan, and Zimbabwe Agenda for Sustainable Socio-Economic Transformation (ZIM ASSET) and National Policy for ICT.
Primary and Secondary Education Statistics Report said in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, all schools closed on March 24, 2020, affecting approximately 5.7 million learners aged between three to eighteen years. On May 4, 2020, MoPSE and the Education Cluster partners published its Covid-19 Preparedness and Response Strategy.
This strategy embraces the use of technology in education and saw the introduction of blended learning approaches.
UNESCO has been a core supporter of technology initiatives in the education sector. Recently, UNESCO said at least 100 schools in Zimbabwe are set to benefit from the “Rapid teacher training on open, distance and online learning” program. In their article published on February 24, 2022, they said the capacity-building exercise is to strengthen the capacity of teachers to facilitate open, distance, and online learning.
“The training provides support for teachers to deliver and use information and communication technology (ICT) in education during and beyond the COVID-19 crisis. The course introduces teachers to basic digital skills, remote learning methods, and the pedagogical use of ICT for teaching. It equips teachers with the skills and resources to deliver alternate and appropriate forms of remote learning using digital tools,” they said.
In short, if the policies are implemented effectively and there is a revolving fund to finance technological advancement initiatives in the education sector, the country is at an advantage of retaining its rank as a leading education destination in Africa.