Digital divide suppressing e-learning: Potraz

Potraz Headquarters in Arundle (Image: Daily News)
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DIGITAL divide is suppressing Zimbabwean schools’ ability to offer a digitally-enhanced curriculum, with a few selected institutions in the cities successfully shifting from the orthodox educational system to electronic learning, a recent report has said.

Digital divide refers to the economic, educational and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not have.

The resistance to accept technology has, however, also helped to widen the digital divide which has disadvantaged the education sector, especially schools located in marginalised areas, according to the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) and the Research Council of Zimbabwe (RCZ) report titled: An Assessment of Digital Literacy Skills Among Secondary School Teachers Using the Digcomp Tool.

The shortage of computers was cited as the greatest deterrent to blending information and communications technology (ICTs) in the education curriculum.

“The shortage of digital devices was often seen as the greatest deterrent to integrating ICTs into the curriculum, causing traditional methods to be used throughout the lessons. Very few schools were able to ease this situation by providing departmental laptops or tablets to teachers.

“However, these were very few cases and at times the departmental laptops were either too few to cater for the number of teachers or they were now obsolete.

“For both the teachers and learners, most schools have not issued devices and the existing infrastructure (computer labs and projectors) is inadequate to support learners (in the context of current enrolment). In this case, the teacher uses his devices to conduct duties using digital tools,” the report further noted.

In schools where digital devices were allowed in the classroom, teachers explained that learners needed more monitoring so that they are not easily distracted.

“Teachers felt that either the laptop or the tablet was the best devices that learners could use because learner activities could be easily monitored. Teachers expressed that cellphones were not easy to monitor due to their size,” the report read.

In 2020 when COVID-19 disrupted learning, about 4,5 million children in Zimbabwe lost nearly a year of schooling after schools were forced to close.

Digital learning was only accessible to 6,8% of learners across the country, leaving the poor and most vulnerable populations in limbo.

Potraz and RCZ urged schools to avoid the prohibition of digital tools use at schools, but rather teach every child ICTs as the world is fast digitalising.

“Soft skills such as coding should be taught to learners regardless of whether they are Computer Science learners or if they will take the Zimsec examination as these skills can lead to job opportunities or self-employment for school-leavers,” the Potraz-RCZ report added. – NewZim