Internet connection for 180 primary and secondary schools

Government has started identifying 180 primary and secondary schools that will be connected to the internet before year-end, a move meant to transform the education sector through technological interventions.

The schools will get free internet services for nine months.

The same initiative to extend to community and village information centres across the country.

“We have started identifying schools in rural areas that are set to be connected to the internet before the end of the year,” said Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Minister Dr Jenfan Muswere.

“We are working with various stakeholders such as the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in the identification of the schools.

“The objective is to have every learner connected to the internet to spur e-learning and as well as bridging education and information gap.”

The move will ensure that learners continue lessons even during the Covid-19-induced lockdowns that are meant to curb the spread of the virus.

Rural schools have been hardest hit by disruptions to the school calendar owing to the digital divide between urban and rural areas.

This has been exacerbated high data cost and internet charges.

Although Government introduced television and radio lessons, they are not readily accessible in some remote areas.

According to the latest report released by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat) and the World Bank in November 2020, only 40 percent in urban areas continued learning using online platforms while only 9 percent of their rural counterparts used the same platform.

“Out of those who continued learning, 40 percent of children in urban areas are learning online while 9 percent of rural children are using the online platforms, while 17 percent (rural and urban) use radio platforms,” read part of the report.

Primary and Secondary Education Minister Cain Mathema said Government was working on ensuring all schools have electricity and internet.

“We may be facing challenges at this moment that some schools do not have electricity or internet connectivity, but we are working towards enabling each school to have requisite networks or infrastructure for each school to provide online learning countrywide,” he said.

Veteran educationist Dr Caiphus Nziramasanga says it is important to invest in adequate infrastructure that will ensure classes across the country continue even in cases of pandemics such as Covid-19.

“We have seen how the pandemic has affected the education sector in the country; learners have lost more than a year of learning,” he said.

“This needs to serve as a learning curve. There is a need for the Government to invest in infrastructure, especially in rural areas.