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Effectiveness Of Radio Lessons In Covid-19 Times… 

It is 9am in Dombodema Village, Plumtree, as 13-year-old Thaboluhle Nleya engages in his newly found occupation–brick-moulding.

By Shelton Muchena 

In this part of the country, bricks are sold at US$0,50 each or US$50 for a thousand. To make a meaningful return from his enterprise, Tau has to break his back, moulding more bricks.

At the same time, close to 500km away, in the Famona suburb of Bulawayo,  his age-mate, Nomvelo Ncube, is going through one-on-one lessons with her private tutor.

Nomvelo’s parents are parting ways with quite a substantial amount to make sure she is ready for her Zimsec examinations by November.

In Harare, precisely at the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation’s Pockets Hill Studios, online lessons are in progress, with the virtual facilitator expecting her target audience to be listening in.

It is also 9am.

As the three scenarios above play out, a lot of questions go begging: How effective are those radio lessons? Who is benefiting from them? Are there any follow-up mechanisms in place to determine whether the  lessons are serving their intended purpose, or the Government is simply wasting time and resources?

While the idea might be a noble one, it is worthwhile to ask and take stock of the online lessons.

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Given Zimbabwe’s digital divide, is the country ready to embrace online lessons?

In a snap survey carried out by this publication, it was  established that not that many children and parents take radio lessons seriously.

In Dombodema, as in scores of other villages  across the country, it is either there is no radio signal or no gadgets to make it impossible for schoolchildren to benefit.

Also, the desire to assist their hard pressed parents put food on the table,  often see vulnerable children like Tauruka take up menial occupations such as brick moulding.

Curiously where there are radios and signals, pupils are simply not interested, nor are their parents, who choose to engage private tutors for their children.

A snap survey in Bulawayo revealed that most households do not listen to the ZBC’s radio stations, opting instead, for digital platforms like DSTV.

Come November, Thaboluhle, Nomvelo and other presumed nameless online radio beneficiaries, would sit the same Zimsec examinations. In its wisdom, the national school examinations board would have set questions with the absurd view that all candidates are equal.

It is beyond doubt that Zimbabwe is one of the countries with the highest literacy rates in Africa. This has mainly been due to physical learning processes.

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However, the global coronavirus pandemic has brought challenges of its own, particularly in terms of learning.

Radio lessons are not new in Zimbabwe, as they have been introduced way back in the early 1980s. However, the same issues affecting them today have been raised as impediments to the initiative in the past.

With Covid-19 now a major player in determining new learning models, the country’s education system has been put to the test.

Statistics on the Zimsec  Grade Seven and Ordinary Level examinations results are not encouraging. The decline in pass rates may be blamed on other factors, but certainly radio lessons may soon take the flak as well.

Since children, particularly those in lower grades, understand concepts through imitation and reading lips, audios alone may not be adequate. Those with hearing disabilities are also not included in this setup.

Indeed, this new trend,  occasioned by Covid-19, will never  be normal for Tauruka and Nomvelo, as the social status bar is raised between and against them.

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