fbpx
Monday, September 26, 2022
HomeNewsUK Funding Helps Zim Transform Learning Amid Climatic, Pandemic Knocks

UK Funding Helps Zim Transform Learning Amid Climatic, Pandemic Knocks

By John Cassim

Harare – At least 150 rural schools in Zimbabwe are expected to benefit from a US$ 2 Million funding by the United Kingdom through a pilot solarization project that has already kicked off.

The solarization project dovetails into the country’s education transformation agenda that is aimed at electrifying, providing borehole water as well as connecting rural schools to the internet.

The devastating Cyclone Idai left a trail of destruction of homes and schools in 2019 and this resulted in serious loss of learning time to hundreds of students in Chimanimani and Chipinge districts, in Manicaland.

From 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic almost shattered learning hope for thousands of these already traumatized learners as schools were completely closed to contain the spread of the deadly virus that claimed millions of lives globally.

Unlike learners in urban areas who were already familiar with learning online, these rural students, who could neither afford mobile phones nor laptops, got stuck.

Ngaone Primary School, is one such school that was affected by Cyclone Idai and COVID-19 but has benefitted from UK funded solarization move.

Learning for pupils at Ngaone Primary School, in Chipinge has been transformed such that even grade three learners can now access computer lessons.

The school is located 445 kilometers east of the capital, Harare and 69 kilometers southwest of Chipinge.

This is a hard-to-reach school, as the road leading to the facility is rocky, dusty and requires only all-terrain vehicles.

Funding

The solarization project is being implemented by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in partnership with UNICEF but funded by the UK government’s Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office (FDCO).

“The UK government is immensely proud of the large-scale pilot to solarize classrooms, administrative offices, teachers housing in six districts across Zimbabwe.

We have provided funds of over US$ 2 million to solarize 150 schools, like this one (Ngaone Primary), that is located in the most rural, remote areas of Zimbabwe,” Tanya Zebroff, Education Adviser for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FDCO) said.

ALSO ON 263Chat:  Grave Diggers: The Forgotten COVID-19 Frontline Workers

According to Tanya, work on the entire project will be completed in March next year.

The Headmaster at Ngaone Primary, Chimina Chakanyuka expressed gratitude for the solarization at his school.

“The school, the staff, as well as the community is benefitting a lot from the 8.5 kilovolts solar system worth US$ 24 000. We have since connected the computer laboratory and soon we will be expanding the laboratory to cater for more students,” Chimina Chakanyuka said.

Benefits of solarization

Ngaone Primary School has had electricity but owing to power outages, cable theft and vandalism of transformers, the school could hardly utilize the power.

Activities at the school were affected to an extent that school authorities had to board buses to the nearest town, Chipinge, just to photocopy administration documents.

The school already had a computer laboratory which was open only to the senior grades due to power cuts.

Today computers, although old, are now accessible to grades three to seven.

The solar electricity also assisted other surrounding schools, according to Chakanyuka.

“The solar project came at a time when our grade seven examination registration exercise was about to begin, so we ended up assisting six more schools from our cluster with power.

They came here and registered their students free of charge, using solar electricity, thereby cutting down on their transport costs to Chipinge town,” the headmaster added.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education introduced the e-learning passport, a portal that is helping schools with online and offline learning.

Although the school is yet to have internet connectivity, teachers claimed, they were accessing the portal to download learning material using their mobile phones.

“We download the material and then upload onto the desk top computers for the benefit of our pupils,” Alec Mupambwa, an ICT teacher at the school said.

ALSO ON 263Chat:  Women Pressure Group Orders Inquiry Into Magaya Rape Allegations

Internet connectivity

In 2019 UNICEF launched the Giga initiative that will help learners to access the internet.

So far Giga has managed to connect over one million learners and over 3 200 schools to the internet in Africa, Central Asia, Latin America and the Eastern Caribbean.

In conjunction with UNICEF, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education is also spearheading the Giga project in Zimbabwean schools.

Ngaone Primary school pupils in the cumputer lab: PIC CREDIT-JOHN CASSIM

“The giga program comes to a school where the backbone, which is electricity, already exists and for the government to be able to provide internet to any school there has to be basic infrastructure like the hardware (computers) then we will talk of e-learning.

So, the solarization project is a move in the right direction as now we have uninterrupted power like at Ngaone, the next step is internet connection,” Taungana Ndoro, Director of Communication and Advocacy in the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, narrated.

To show the government’s commitment, President Emmerson Mnangagwa recently attended the High-Level Summit on Transforming Education, in the United States of America in New York.

While addressing delegates at the summit, Mnangagwa said his government had invested so much value in inclusive, equitable and quality education as a key driver for socio-economic and cultural development.

He bemoaned that the world with Zimbabwe included, is facing emerging global realities termed the 4th Industrial Revolution.

“While the advent of COVID-19 brought about disruptions in the education sector, Zimbabwe introduced blended teaching, adopted the phased learning approach and compression of the syllabi for basic education,” he said.

Mnangagwa added his government will start providing free and compulsory basic education with effect from 2023.

Share this article

No comments

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You cannot copy content of this page