YES, you read that right. We have to start somewhere. Here we are and we have a generation of students and pupils who are more tech savvy than their teachers. If we are serious about using ICT to open doors of new opportunities, then we must implement this. If you have a child attending a school with no computer facilities then you are preparing your child for failure. ICT levels the playing field. Your background, economic or social, does not matter much when it comes to the vast opportunities that ICT technologies bring to your child.
We live in a world where devices are connected and access of information is at your finger tips. Once upon a time one had to go to the library and peruse through a heap of books to search for particular information. I am sure some remember the Encyclopedia Britannica. For those who do not know what it is I can sum it up as a book or set of books giving information on many subjects or on many aspects of one subject and typically arranged alphabetically. One had to peruse through pages on different topics and headlines and squeeze the information that you wanted.
The book edition was effective during its time and it served its purpose. A digital version is now available online just download it. Enter Google you search anything that you can think of. And how does this relate to making ICT training for teachers compulsory? Read on.
Here is our challenge. Most teachers are computer illiterate. This is not out of their own making. This is an inherited problem over the years. Different authorities have come and gone with different and often ineffective and useless ICT methods for education. When the teacher cannot use a computer what do you expect of the average student? Lack of ICT skills on part of teachers has worked against the efforts that are being made to bridge the digital divide.
With a class averaging 40 pupils and teaching five classes.
10 years by five classes with 40 pupils each is the estimate number of pupils that pass through this particular teacher. Great opportunity or is it?
Lack of computers and internet are no longer a good excuse especially in urban environments. With such high penetration of broadband technologies like optic fibre, ADSL and 3G where is the challenge? The problem starts at the top. Right down to the provincial educational and district education office the ICT paralysis is visible. The ministry has no clear plan on how to equip teachers with the so much needed ICT skills that should be taught as early as pre-school level. Research has shown that children under the age of 12 are more receptive to learn computer programming and other ICT related technologies?
The report stated that ICT must be embraced in the education sector. This report was made in 1999 bear that in mind. Notwithstanding the financial, human resource skills that schools face in an effort to embrace ICT, the problem must be solved at the level at which it occurs – at the top.
The educational authorities must have a clear education ICT strategy. I have been to several schools around the country and I can tell you that most schools have computer labs and a broadband internet connection. A positive development. But because the teaching staff is not computer savvy most of the WiFi is used for instant messaging applications like Whatsapp and even video streaming. If the teachers had been properly trained in unlocking the value of the computer and internet connection we should not be starving of ICT professionals in Zimbabwe. Besides ICT is an empowering tool for the disadvantaged ones by design or circumstance. The girl child and the disabled come into mind.
There are so many e-learning programmes from different vendors that are being deployed at our schools. This is a big problem as they do not follow any particular standard or protocol. Educational authorities must audit and certify E-learning systems and the vendors that deploy. This includes the training of teachers, which must be factored in as early as Hillside Teachers’ College. We should not wait for teachers to graduate and then start bugging them about their computer literacy or lack thereof. This inadvertently implicates the Higher Education Ministry, which is in charge of institutions of higher learning.
As a way forward, a plan to offer in-service training teachers must be crafted. One internationally recognised training programme is called ICDL. This is a good starting point. Educational authorities in partnership with other stakeholders like Zimta, ICT Ministry, computer societies, academic institutions, private industry must come up with a blue print that can target training of “x” number of teachers by year 2020. Easier said than done. This can be simplified by leveraging on existing certified training institutions. On the other hand no student teacher should graduate from college without a basic ICT certification. Yes, you read that right. Someone has to start the ball rolling.
We live in a digital age in which technology plays a role in much of what we do every day. Using computers as cognitive tools, a cognitive tool helps you think. But it’s time for schools to realise that technology is now a part of our lifestyle.
To the parent, demand that your child gets his or hands dirty with computers at her school. Access to ICT is now a fundamental right. Demand it from teachers, school heads, education authorities and all. Stop complaining about the poverty cycles in your life.
“Connect a school, connect a community. Train a teacher, educate a nation.”
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