Eight thousand primary and secondary schools in Zimbabwe will shortly be connected to the Internet as part of a new national eLearning programme, says Nelson Chamisa, the country’s Minister of Information and Communications Technology. “All political parties in the government have agreed that eLearning should be a priority in order to improve our education system”, said Chamisa, adding that the state would be furnishing educational institutions with computers so that all schools go digital by 2014.
The programme comes at a time when the country is overhauling its national ICT policy for the first time in six years. Launched at Chogugudza Primary School in Mashonaland East Province in March this year, the national eLearning programme will initially target schools on the national grid.
The scarcity of electricity in most rural areas was in part responsible for the failure of the first attempt to computerise the nation’s schools a decade ago. The collapse of the economy and the subsequent brain drain of skilled teachers nationwide forever changed the formerly bright face of education in Zimbabwe. By 2009, reports UNICEF, 94% of rural schools had been closed, and school attendance had dropped from 80% to 20%. UNICEF has been paying the school fees of over four hundred thousand underprivileged primary schoolers through the Basic Education Assistance Module (BEAM), but the agency has recently announced its withdrawal from the programme. The new national eLearning programme will therefore be challenging to implement in remote areas where schools are underfunded.
Jeffreyson Chitando, Parliamentary Portfolio Committee Member on Education, Sports and Culture, said the country was keen to see rural areas benefiting from the eLearning programme. “Our committee shall make sure that there is no school that will be excluded in the ongoing national eLearning programme. We understand the benefits of eLearning, and we are going to make sure that no student shall be disadvantaged in accessing modern technologies such as the Internet”, said Chitando.
(Source: eLearning Africa