Network service providers are being asked to offer free Internet access to university websites so students can access online learning material, as Government moves to enhance digital learning platforms during the Covid-19-induced national lockdown.
Government recently advised all universities to develop material for online lectures to ensure learning is not disrupted while at the same time upholding the social distancing principles as well as minimising movement and interaction between students and lecturers.
In an interview, Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said the ministry was negotiating with network service providers and pushing for free access to online learning material as well as university websites.
Prof Murwira said the ministry has already presented the proposal and now awaits response.
“Universities in the country are working on online learning and there is a lot of progress. We are now working in having zero rating for their websites. We want telecommunication companies not to charge students when they visit university websites to obtain learning material. We are now working on the modalities of that and we have written letters to that effect. We are now waiting to see how it can be concluded,” he said.
Prof Murwira said the ministry will be guided by the Government decisions on Covid-19 to decide on whether e-learning becomes full scale. The free access to university websites will cater for underprivileged students who might not have resources to access the Internet frequently.
“The position that we have taken as a ministry is to be guided by the decisions taken by the Head of State and Government. We follow directives through the emergency rules. Our primary objective is to safeguard lives,” he said.
Midlands State University (MSU) has already complied with the directive and introduced online lectures for students through its e-learning platforms.
MSU Vice Chancellor, Professor Victor Muzvidziwa said education across the globe has taken a new trajectory and it was incumbent upon universities to embrace new learning methods and enhance access to education.
“Covid-19 is not peculiar to our country. We do not know how and when it will end. So, we need to prepare ourselves for anything. As MSU we are fortunate that we had our electronic library where our students were accessing electronic journals and books. We have electronic resources for our students. We have to also not over-rely on brick and mortar libraries.
“Learning has to go on and the novel coronavirus in as much as it is a challenge, has also made us to see new opportunities. We think outside the box so that we proffer solutions to the challenges that would have befallen us. We do not need to focus on the dark cloud,” he said.