HARARE, Zimbabwe – The use of local Zimbabwean languages in radio lessons for primary and secondary school students affected by COVID-19 lockdowns is producing positive results, according to education officials.
As schools in Zimbabwe closed due to the pandemic, students had to rely on online lessons, but most of them could not afford internet data packages, had no access to electricity, or did not have internet gadgets.
In June 2020, the government introduced radio lessons to help students in rural areas catch up with those benefiting from online classes.
So far, radio lessons are available in nine of Zimbabwe’s 16 official languages.
“The radio lessons are helping, as they are complimenting the classroom lessons we are giving as the Education Ministry because they are using local languages,” Primary and Secondary Education Minister Evelyn Ndlovu told Anadolu Agency.
“You know when you deliver your lesson in a local language, it’s much better because the intake of the message is faster and better. We hope to be broadcasting radio lessons in all 16 official languages by 2025,” Ndlovu added.
Among Zimbabwe’s official languages, English, Shona and Ndebele are the most dominant, spoken by 89%, 40% and 39% of the population, respectively.
The other 13 are Tonga, Barwe, Chichewa, Kalanga, Ndau, Shangani, Nambya, Koisan, Sotho, Tswana, Venda, Xhosa and sign language.
– Better learning
Promise Simoyi, a secondary school student in the rural Chipinge district in Manicaland province, is benefiting from lessons in his mother tongue, Ndau.
“It was during the COVID-19 lockdown in 2021 that my friends and I decided to conduct group discussions because we could not afford online lessons on the internet,” Simoyi told Anadolu Agency.
“One of us brought his family’s portable solar radio, and by chance, we discovered the radio lessons. We all developed an interest and started tuning in every day.”
Tapiwa Matambo, a student in the city of Chinhoyi, some 113 kilometers (70 miles) west of the capital Harare, said radio lessons, especially those taught in local languages, are benefiting him a lot.
“My father told me about the radio lessons earlier this year. My friends and I decided to listen, and we found that they were covering topics that we were having difficulties with,” he said.
“As a group, we have been consistent in taking the radio lessons. This has helped my grades improve.”
His parents were also full of praise for the radio lessons, particularly their impact on their son’s grades.
“These lessons are covering in detail certain topics that my son missed in school due to the COVID-19 lockdowns,” Matambo’s father, Wilfred, said.
Eugine Sakuranga, a parent in Nyanga, located 300 kilometers (186 miles) east of Harare, said local radio stations in the region have been providing lessons in Chibarwe, a language spoken by a minority in Zimbabwe and in some parts of Mozambique.
“They are not teaching everything in Chibarwe, but it is still encouraging. My son has found these lessons very helpful and his understanding of some subjects has improved,” Sakuranga told Anadolu Agency.
– Radios for rural schools
With positive feedback coming in from students and parents, the Zimbabwean government has begun distributing solar-powered radios in remote rural areas, where electricity and internet access remain a luxury.
“We have managed to develop more than 3,500 interactive radio instruction lessons and so far succeeded in reaching 55% of learners during real-time broadcasting,” Cyprian Kent Masocha, permanent secretary for the Education Ministry, said at an event in Harare recently.
“Unfortunately, some learners could not be reached as they stay in areas with no radio signal at all. So we will distribute solar-powered radios with memory sticks loaded with the radio lessons for their benefit.”
Source: Anadolu Agency