On 13 August 2021, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, MoPSE, organised an online meeting with Teachers’ Unions to brainstorm on when and how to open schools in the face of COVID 19 and teacher incapacitation crisis.
The meeting, just like many of its nature failed to produce a conclusive feasible way forward. This article attempts to give pragmatic counsel on how Zimbabwe can urgently, efficiently and safely open schools.
It should be noted that learners have lost learning time because we have failed to innovate in the face of COVID19. The austerity measures which led to erosion of salaries have worsened the education crisis as teachers are now by standers in a sector they are supposed to be running. Teachers do not have the motivation to innovate for the sustained provision of education because they are underpaid.
Assuming that the government finds a way to motivate teachers, learning could urgently resume under our proposed Context Based Remote Learning Model, CBRLM.
The biggest lie that has been sold so far is that there are some communities which are unable to offer remote learning. It is a lie spread by those with a strong bias towards e learning as the only form of remote learning. It should be noted that remote learning is still possible even for communities which are not connected to the internet.
The Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe, ARTUZ produced recommendations on how to sustain provision of education during emergencies such as the COVID19 pandemic. The recommendations can easily be implemented in the current context of COVID 19.
The crisis in our education sector emanates from centralisation of education management. For context based remote learning to work, communities should be given latitude to study their context, develop a contextual remote learning strategy and implement it.
ARTUZ proposes that each district be given a mandate to produce a remote learning strategy which suits available resources. A district will have to produce a strategy which can be implemented with available resources.
The District Schools Inspectors should have planning meetings with school heads and produce working strategies for remote learning for schools in their districts. Our districts are not homogenous and allowing them to plan helps to produce solutions fit for context.
It is common knowledge that some districts have community radios, some have internet connection and some have to rely on printing of physical work sheets among other possible intervention of remote learning.
The use of USSD codes can also be employed by all districts in Zimbabwe. Parents led learning is also a model worth pursuing. It is therefore our submission that each district can produce a pragmatic strategy for remote learning.
Having produced District Remote Learning Strategies, DRLSs, the government should then lead a process of capacity building on remote supervision. Our education leaders should be trained on basic methods of supervising their subordinates remotely. Monitoring attainment of set targets should still be a priority.
COVID19 and other disruptions to physical classroom should always be anticipated, it is high time we let go of our strong attachment to the physical classroom. ARTUZ volunteers to work hand in hand with government to pilot the production of the first District Remote Learning Strategy.
It will be ideal to pilot in the most remote district in Zimbabwe to give confidence to other districts.
Never again should schools close because of the disruption of the physical classroom.
Learning should continue remotely.
The DRLS will also compliment the physical classroom as we play catch up on lost learning time.
A whole generation is losing out on the right to education, we have to adapt and #SaveOurEducationZw