e-learning the new norm in the education sector

With many countries being affected by COVID-19 and various measures put in place to curtail the spread of the virus , businesses , usual daily lives and the way people live across the world has to some extent being disrupted, taking into consideration the impact COVID19 has had on the education sector ,systems have changed and everything has taken a different turn, it is no longer the traditional method of learning.

Research shows that worldwide there are currently more than 1.2 billion children in 186 countries affected by school closures due to the pandemic.

Zimbabwes Education sector has been hit hard by the pandemic ,with the President declaring the closure of schools and tertiary institutions starting Tuesday 24 March to contain the spread of COVID19 , students across the country have been staying home since then.

President Mnangagwa said,“Government will advise on dates for the reopening of all teaching institutions once the threat of the virus is adjudged to have receded,” Mnangagwa said in a statement on 19 March.

With debates erupting around the reopening of schools , organisations , parents raising concerns over the safety of students government recently pushed forward the re-opening of schools from 29 June to 28.

Whilst students are staying home there has been a shift away from the usual classroom , adopting online learning to adapt living during the pandemic.

Even before COVID-19, education online through virtual tutoring , online learning softwares and language apps existed but with the prevailing virus situation online learning have gradually become the norm of the day.

Students at home hence needed to continue learning , government some time ago engaged network service providers to offer free internet access to university students

Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said , “Universities in the country are working on online learning and there is a lot of progress. We are now working in having zero rating for their websites. We want telecommunication companies not to charge students when they visit university websites to obtain learning material. We are now working on the modalities of that and we have written letters to that effect. We are now waiting to see how it can be concluded.”

Mobile Network Operator Telecel Zimbabwe launched an e – learning platform for all learning institutions dubbed Funda, as a way of responding to the Covid-19 crisis , due to the closure of schools and the country being on lockdown.

Recently , Netone introduced e-learning bundles to cushion students during the pandemic , econet also introduced eLearning bundles offering schools an opportunity to buy data for students and teachers at a subsidised price.

Chido Mudanza from University of Zimbabwe , appreciated the bundles saying their actually better ,compared to the normal bundle and uploading and accessing her assignments have become quite affordable.”

“At least is mounts to something , it could have been better being offered at a zero rate , but its better , “ said on UZ student.

In response to prevailing demand, Cassava Smartech availed a digital classroom dubbed Akello , a platform that offers local students from Primary level to High School, access to online Zimbabwe School Examinations Council (ZIMSEC) curriculum lessons for all subjects.

The e-learning bundles , digital platforms have actually created a new era of education in the country.

They are however , challenges to overcome , some students do not have reliable internet access , mostly in rural areas and to some extent this is creating a digital gap of participating in digital learning.

Some months back a picture was trending on Social Media , with a child in the rural areas from disadvantaged backgrounds with a quote saying , “ I’m not against online learning , but what about us”.

As much as the country can adopt online learning , others might not have access to the right technology , there might be insufficient bandwith as well its a matter of diffrence between digital learning and the traditional classroom.

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