by WELLINGTON TONI
HARARE, (ItNews Zimbabwe) – FOLLOWING the outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) and the imposition of a lockdown, which has since been extended, Zimbabwean tertiary institutions have realised the need to adopt online lectures to avoid disruptions to the academic year.
Among the institutions that have taken a lead towards the adoption of technology is the Gweru-based Midlands State University (MSU), which is working on feasibility studies for online lectures, with a focus on their underprivileged students.
This focus follows the realisation of the digital divide between students from underprivileged families and their advantaged counterparts.
Impoverished scholars have to contend with the rising costs of internet access.
While electricity, a scarce resource, has been abundant in households on a daily basis as industries that consume most of the power have shut because of the lockdown, not all students have internet access at home.
Mirirai Mawere, MSU Director of Public Relations (PR) said they were conscious of that fact.
“We want to see the practicability of online lectures considering that we have underprivileged students from rural communities who might not have access to the internet. So, while we have proposed to have online lectures, we need to have a look at the modalities of the proposal so that no student is disadvantaged,” Mawere said.
Last week, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development encouraged institutions of higher learning to develop online lectures.
Prof Amon Murwira, the minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development, also pointed to the fact that some universities might be more advanced than others in that regard.
“We are going to make a follow up on this,” Murwira said on the development of online lectures.
“We also acknowledge that some universities are more advanced than others but all institutions have to develop online lectures.”
Econet Wireless, the mobile network operator, has teamed up with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to offer free online education under their Ruzivo (Knowledge) platform.
The Posts and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) has also urged more use of technology during the challenging times posed by the virus.
It is uncertain when the institutions will open as the COVID-19 pandemic rages.
“Only President Mnangagwa will decide on when they will open,” Murwira said.
The Great Zimbabwe University (GZU) in Masvingo has however kept its Department of Natural Sciences open to spearhead the manufacturing of hand sanitisers and personal protective clothing.
The initial 21-day lockdown lapsed on Monday.
Mnangagwa has announced the government’s decision to extend the lockdown by 14 days to May 3.
There is a possibility of a further extension.
Zimbabwe has recorded 25 positive cases of the corona virus and three deaths.