Lea Mutanda, Midlands State University
I think attending lectures physically is crucial because online lessons have a number of disadvantages, especially considering the current economic crisis.
Data bundles are now expensive and not everyone can afford buying them.
Attending lectures personally ensures students focus and concentrate more on learning unlike online lessons. There are many distractions associated with learning at home.
Face-to-face lessons also give students an opportunity to connect and network with other students from a wider social background.
Fourthly, there are also students who come from poor backgrounds and do not have or own resources needed such as laptops or smartphones. They would be disadvantaged if the route taken is one of online lessons.
Part of the solution could be for institutions to provide such devices to their students, but that would push the cost of education, making it inaccessible to the majority from not so well off backgrounds.
Ideally institutions of learning should have these available for use by students as and when required. Students could be issued these for the duration of their study and the serial numbers recorded in order to track the devices.
Nicole Zimunya, University of Zimbabwe
The coronavirus infectious disease (Covid-19) pandemic has questioned, tested and tried the potential of the educational system in terms of inclusiveness of e-learning.
The Government has made enormous efforts in trying to ensure accessibility of e-learning in remote areas as part of the educational system by training teachers and donating computers.
The pandemic has tested the potential and effectiveness of the already existing initiatives in the educational sector.
However, the unexpected eruption of the pandemic has shattered this initiative with schools and universities being closed and the uncertainty of examination classes.
By a default quirk, the pandemic has demonstrated the importance of digitisation in learning. More efforts are being channelled to ensure inclusiveness of e-learning.
The initiatives being taken demonstrate that education is not only imparted in the traditional classroom set-up and that learning does not have to involve the physical presence of the teacher and student, but that it can be facilitated through the internet.
What does this mean? This implies the availability and accessibility of internet connectivity even in all the remote areas of the country.
If pursued and implemented to its logical conclusion, digitisation will take Zimbabwe to a whole new level, where every student, no matter how remotely located they are, will only be a mouse click away from being connected.
Education in the pre-Covid-19 era was great, but the future of education after the pandemic presents a far more exciting scenario.
Memory Marozva, Harare Institute of Technology
The coronavirus has caused a lot of shift and change to the world, causing an imbalance of the normal lifestyle we were used to due to social distancing, lockdown, masking, and many other preventive measures.
These measures have brought along with them a lot of changes and disruptions in almost every aspect of life. The greatest shift has taken place in the education sector, since gatherings are no longer allowed.
Educational systems have switched to online learning in pursuit of progress and productivity, as it is unclear when this pandemic is going to end and when things are going to go back to normal.
The big question is: “How is the coronavirus going to affect the education sector when all this ends?”
A major concern for students is how they will manage after Covid-19, which affected most of their time during lockdown, and how they will adapt to online learning.
Tears were welling up in her eyes as she stared at her mother. Thembani was worried because she had no money for data to access the internet for research on her assignments and projects.
The President had just called off the lockdown and the people were getting back to work in very small numbers. Big gatherings were not yet allowed.
Thembani was a Level Two Harare Institute of Technology student pursuing a B.Tech Honours Degree in Electronic Engineering.
Her mother had stopped working months back when the lockdown was first declared. The mother was so stressed about how she was going to provide for her only child whose father had died when she was six years old.
The Government declared that students could only return to school to write their final examinations. All course work and lectures were being conducted online.
Thembani was not satisfied with continuing online lessons. It made things worse for her because she was likely to experience a lot of backlog in her school work due to the financial state of her family.
This was a huge toll on the majority of the students in the country as all mobile network operators in Zimbabwe had just raised their tariffs.
Thembani’s mother only had a small amount left in her savings, which was not enough for all their requirements and could not sustain them. It seemed there was no hope.
Considering her next step, one afternoon listening to the radio she heard on the news that all websites for tertiary institutions were declared free and accessible to all students.
The students only had to log in with their registration number and all the essential basic material for learning would be available on those websites, as well as links to online tests would be available on the newly structured free websites.
All the information needed would be uploaded on the websites. It was also declared that students in their final year would be given data for research for their final projects. This had been made possible after all the different mobile networks in the country in partnership with the Government had come together and contributed towards launching of the free websites and the provision of data for all final year students.
Libraries were to allow students free hours of study and research, and these libraries would allow a specific number of students in at a time. Admission would be free of charge as all costs were covered.
The strategy would help in reaching out to students who didn’t have any access to the internet. This news was a turning point for Thembani and many other students who were experiencing the same problems or who were worse off.
Sidney Muchemwa, University of Zimbabwe
The coronavirus infectious disease-19 (Covid-19) pandemic is having a profound effect on lives, health and well-being of individuals, families and communities.
Young people are not spared. They are faced with the challenge of shifting mindsets from ones of living to ones of survival as they live in constant fear of losing loved ones, while their financial security has been adversely affected.
Although necessary, lockdown has affected access to sexual and reproductive health services and has promoted social withdrawal.
As a young person, I am faced with a huge responsibility of responding to Covid-19 holistically. This implies proffering lasting solutions in order to minimise the effects of the pandemic on the population.
Control measures against infection combined with a deliberate effort to sustain a good balance between psychological and mental health guarantee better health outcomes, thus keeping communities and nations safe.
In a quest to manage the pandemic the psychosocial aspects of the disease cannot be overlooked. There is no health without sound mental health, therefore the well-being of young people in Zimbabwe and across the continent becomes a priority.
Technology transcends all physical boundaries in managing Covid-19. I have hosted social media-based therapy sessions delivering mental health services to youths in Ghana, Rwanda, South Africa and Zimbabwe.
The main goal of the interventions is to help individuals and communities in need so that they can better cope with the effects of the pandemic. While only one tiny step in the right direction, the impact and effect is that it reduces the burden on national health institutions ultimately contributing to the global goal of effectively dealing with Covid-19 holistically.
As a young person from Zimbabwe, I have been on a mission to spread important skills and Covid-19 management techniques through social media. The outcomes of contributing to the intervention toolbox have been outstanding. Young people across the continent have reported the positive influence of such knowledge in building their resilience towards the pandemic and its far-reaching effects.