Report on provision of online classes during COVID-19

Report on provision of online classes during COVID-19
Report on provision of online classes during COVID-19


HON PETER MOYO: I move the motion standing in my name that this House takes note of the First Report of the Joint Portfolio Committee on ICT, Postal and Courier Services and Primary and Secondary Education on provisions of online classes for learners during the COVID-19 pandemic period.

1.0 Introduction

The joint Portfolio Committees on ICT, Postal and Courier Services and Primary and Secondary Education resolved to conduct a joint enquiry on the provision of online classes to learners during periods of lockdown in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This was as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic which has forced governments and organisations worldwide to look for digital alternatives to the accustomed face-to-face interaction between teachers and learners to ensure continuity and safety in the learning environment during the pandemic.

2.0 Objectives

1. To appreciate measures put in place to ensure that learners in both rural and urban areas have access to classes during periods of lockdown;

2. To assess the impact of such measures on the provision of online education in Zimbabwe; and

3. To offer policy recommendations with a view to improve provision of education during the COVID-19 pandemic.

3.0 Methodology

The Committees conducted oral evidence sessions with the following organisations;

· Mrs. T. Thabela, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education;

· Eng. K. Kundishora, the Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services;

· Dr Machengete, the Director General of Postal Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe;

· Mrs Mutasa, the Managing Director of TelOne.TelOne Zimbabwe;

· Mr Mushanawani, the Chief Executive Officer of NetOne; and

· Mr Makuni, the Chief Operating Officer of Econet Wireless.

4.0 Committee Findings

4.1 Presentation by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

In her presentation, Mrs. Thabela indicated that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education had crafted short, medium and long-term strategies for the learners to access education during the lockdown period. The Ministry had adopted the use of online platforms such as open and distance learning, digital learning platforms, and the use of open education resources.

4.2 She informed the Committee that through the support of various partners such as UNESCO, World Vision, Higher life Foundation and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry opened virtual learning platforms which includes;

· PROFUTURO Digital Education Programme supported by World Vision;

· The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE) website;

· The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education online platforms that were supported by the United National Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO); LEARNING PASSPORT and GIGA initiative connectivity of schools supported by UNICEF;

· LAN based platform for areas without connectivity; and

· Higher Life Foundation offered RUZIVO Platform; and Virtual library

4.3 In addition, the Permanent Secretary informed the Committees that the Ministry of Primary and Secondary had adopted the short-term measures to facilitate online learning and these include;

· Concessionary Econet data costs for learners

· CHATBOT: Dzidzo Pamuzi/ Imfundwe’ndlini/Paden

· Use of Whatsapp for learning -teachers using WhatsApp for teaching, mainly in urban schools.

Through partners such as UNICEF and Campaign for Female Education (CAMFED), the Ministry provided devices:

· 3180 radios, memory sticks (UNICEF) and 20 000 MP3 players and memory cards, (CAMFED) Campaign for Female Education. Eighty (80) tablets to support poor learners in Mwenezi District (Plan International) recording all the information that is online to make it offline for rural learners to be able to access.

4.4 Furthermore, the following were identified as medium to long term measures being implemented to achieve online lessons;

· Radio lessons-2100 produced and aired to date the challenge is on bandwidth especially in border areas. However, the main challenge is the cost of airing those radio lessons;

· Real time mobile telephone lessons for early childhood development-VIAMO- World Vision and Via Mobile learning platform;

· Television lessons – 40 lessons were produced to date;

· Self-Study Guides, Workbooks and Modules;

· Development of Study Packs; and

· Champions of Champions for Community based learning Programme.

4.5 In providing online lessons, the Permanent Secretary stressed out that some learners did not benefit from the online services due to lack of connectivity and radio transmission. However, she mentioned that the platforms and radio lessons managed to meet the educational needs of more than three million learners, assisted some Grade 7 learners in attaining reasonable grades in 2020 and facilitated mobile learning through texts, visual and audio.

5.0 Presentation by the Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Services and other stakeholders.

5.1 Dr. Eng. Kundishora, the Permanent Secretary indicated that the Ministry of ICT Postal and Courier Services had managed to mobilise Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other players in the telecommunications sector to develop digital platforms to enable learning to continue with classes in the wrath of the pandemic. The Ministry had produced the National E- Learning Strategy which was still under consideration by Cabinet at the time of the hearing.

5.2 Measures and Impact by Postal Telecommunication Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)

5.2.1 Dr Machengete, the Director-General of POTRAZ indicated that through the Universal Services Fund (USF), POTRAZ has been rolling out various e-learning projects to seven schools over the past years as a way of making ICT services universally accessible targeting under-serviced areas in the country. The programmes have proved to be very helpful in the face of the new demands being experienced in the education sector as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

5.3 List of Programmes being undertaken by the Ministry of ICT, Postal and Courier Services and its Parastatals.

Dr Machengete mentioned that from the year 2000 and 2010, there was the model (40-seater lab per school programme),

5.3.1 USF Project by POTRAZ

In March 2020, at the onset of the pandemic, 570 computers were distributed to 575 schools. The schools were also connected to the internet. A total of 60 rural schools benefited under the Connect a School Connect a Community Project where at each school, 80 students received laptops, 10 tutor laptops, students and tutor desks and chairs, two projectors and screens, power supplies and solar panels. ICT gadgets which included computers, printers, projectors and servers were also distributed under the E-Learning Project. Four thousand three hundred and thirty two (4332) computers were distributed to 404 schools. In addition, 17 printers and three projectors were also distributed.

5.3.2 1300 Schools Connectivity Project [ZARNet/POTRAZ].

Dr Eng K. Kundishora, the Permanent Secretary revealed that the scope of the project included the provision of functional websites equipped with a Learning Management System, (e-learning) materials, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) telephony, e-mail services and tele-education/video conferencing facilities. He further indicated that 800 schools have been connected to internet.

5.3.3 The Director General of POTRAZ, Dr Machengete cited that Community Information Centres have been established and operationalised to allow for increased access to computers and the internet for marginalised communities. The centres offer internet and other services such as printing, faxing and photocopying at subsidised rates. Students are also able to access e-leaning content and submit their work through online channels where necessary.

5.3.4 COVID-19 Initiatives

Dr Machengete mentioned that POTRAZ had planned to equip a total of one hundred and eighty (180) schools with either 20 laptops each and/or internet connectivity during the current year (2021). Procurement of both computers and deployment of connectivity for this project is underway. One hundred rural schools across the country have benefited in 2020.

5.3.5 Internet Connectivity

Fig 1. Summary of the schools connected and not connected to internet.

ItemSchool TypeNational TotalConnected to InternetNot connected toInternet