“Online learning not accessible to everyone“, Zimbabwean students complained during a recent virtual dialogue about the impact of lockdown on students organized by the Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT).
Since the closure of tertiary institutions in March, eLearning has become the learning modality. Utilizing electronic technologies, students can access educational curriculum outside of a traditional classroom. In most cases, this format of learning refers to a course, program or degree delivered completely online.
Andrea Medaas, a YETT programme advisor, said that the dialogue achieved its objective as it generated recommendations that aimed to highlight the challenges students and institutions are facing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Online learning not accessible, what’s the solution?
One of the major problems addressed was access to internet networks and data costs. Students commended that e-learning was only a good option to learning if everyone could be able to access it. There are many students who reside in rural or remote areas, thus the difficulty to access e-learning platforms is a foremost concern.
One student said:
Online learning exposes the social differences between many students. Financial instability now hinders most students from exercising their right to education.
The poor power supply was highlighted as another major challenge as electricity is usually seldom available during the day in Zimbabwe.
Anxiety over the reopening of campuses
On 22 June, Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Professor Amon Murwira announced that Zimbabwean universities and colleges will reopen on 13 July after three months of school closure.
A participant of the virtual dialogue, Lindiwe Maphosa, who then represented the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, showed her empathy for and also understanding of the students’ predicaments. She also agreed that it was a difficult and demanding time for students.
She further said that the ministry and institutions are working with service providers to come up with long-lasting affordable solutions to network costs so that the students should no longer complain about online learning not accessible to everyone.