2022 e-learning year in review
Shepherd Chimururi Youth Interactive Correspondent
Year 2022 has been really eventful in e-learning circles.
A number of progressive e-learning and ICT initiatives targeted at students and young people were launched by the Government in partnership with NGO and the private sector to make quality education accessible.
Digital skills empowerment for youth from under privileged communities was also achieved.
The Youth Interactive continued to give a voice to the students and young people and allowed them to share their e-learning experiences and aspirations.
The e-learning master stroke of the year was delivered by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, UNICEF in partnership with Microsoft that came in the form of the Learning Passport mobile application which is an offline digital platform meant to provide free educational resources to learners, parents, and educators.
This initiative supported the National Development Strategy 1(NDS1) which focuses on initiatives around inclusive education as well as innovative technologies that support alternative learning approaches from Early Childhood Development upward.
It is worthy to note that the learning passport model has been used in more than 23 countries worldwide to help children access education even without access to the internet.
At global level Tynwald HighSchool, made Zimbabwe proud when they beat teams from 180 countries to win the XPRIZE Gold Medal Innovator award, at the 2022 FIRST Global Challenge games – an Olympics-style, international robotics competition for high-school students from around the world that were held in Switzerland. The competition aims to celebrate Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM).
Indonesia took the silver medal whilst Greece took home the bronze medal.
Back home, another big benefactor in the education sector that played a big role is Plan International.
The global grassroots organisation teamed up with local partners like Dzidzo Inhaka to install offline e-learning portals in schools in Manicaland and Matebeleland South.
They went a step further and teamed up with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the National University of Science and Technology (Nust) to launch the Bulawayo Learn and Earn Digital Skills (BLEDS) project for equipping city youths with digital knowledge for use in self-help projects.
158 BLEDS students benefited from two laboratories that were set up at St Bernard’s High School in Pumula and the other at Plan International offices.
The programme received 700 applications, with 200 students being enrolled, including women.
Another e-learning initiative that made a lot of impact in 2022 is Dzidzo Paden / Imfundwe’ndlini which is a Whatsapp automated chatbot that was launched with the express aim to distribute academic resources notes, past exam papers and marking schemes to learners who have limited or no internet access.
Though the programme is a brainchild of 19-year-old Trueman Mama Mabumbo a former student at St George’s College it took combined efforts of the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, ZIMSEC and UNESCO to roll out the programme nationally. However, towards the end of the year the hottest e-learning property in the education circles was STUDSYS which is an acronym for studying system that coversall educational levels from ECD up to form six.
It was conceptualised by Gotronics Africa, a tech start up co-founded in 2017. Again STUDSYS was developed in partnership with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education as a long term ICT strategy of helping to reach more students than any other existing solution.
At ECD level the Dzidzo Inhaka E-learnng in partnership with E-learning and Computer Education Trust (ECET) was outstanding in championing the specialised training of ECD teachers how to teach infant leaner computers since no college has ventured into that territory.
This also increased the number of schools organising computer skills competitions for the little ones.
Dzidzo Inhaka will publish a trilogy of books on How to Teach Infant Learners Computers early next year that will be adopted into study-able programmes in partnership with a local university. The production of the modules is at an advanced stage as well.
However, not all has been rosy as some characters conspired to apply a destructive touch to the positive e-learning efforts.
A mind boggling coward act was committed by three Advanced Level Hartzel High School students namely Courage Mapiye (19), Prosper Simon (19) and Prince Mupaza (19) who broke into the school’s computer laboratory and stole 20 laptops.
Magistrate Langton Carter sentenced them to 16 months in prison. He however, suspended five months on condition of good behavior. Another month was suspended on condition that they restitute the school US$ 83.34 each before December 28, 2022.
The remaining 10 months were commuted to 350 hours of community service.
It is now or never for ZIMSEC to introduce the long promised e-exams and e-marking to stem chaos that characterised the November ZIMSEC ‘O’ Level exams.
If the Vehicle Inspection Department is managing its computerised exams system, why is ZIMSEC failing to do the same after almost a decade of promise?
Another talking point during the year has been the high cost of data.
Though the three mobile operators tried to alleviate the problem by introducing subsidised e-learning bundles they later turned into chaos with allegations of reduced speeds and insider scams.
Looking forward, the year 2023 can be a better year if the Ministry of Education and private partners continue to up the game in increasing access to digital gadgets and content.
Competitions, fairs and conferences need to be multiplied.
Zimbabwe Centre of High Performance Computing based at the University of Zimbabwe, Topflight Arts and Science Conference, Pamuzinda Hub, Zim Science Fair, Ruzivo, E-solutions, ECET, Mukunotronics and other NGOplayers like World Vision, Shamwari Yemwanasikana, etc, must double their efforts to promote e-learning and digital skills empowerment. A thought provoking question to all educators and students is, which school will be crowned the e-learning school of the year?