The government is working with tertiary institutions to speed up the process of implementing electronic learning (e-learning) in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 which forced the country to go on lockdown.
The education sector was hard hit after the government ordered the institutions to close as physical attendance became untenable due to the spread of the pandemic.
The shift to online learning has not been smooth for most institutions with students struggling to acquire the necessary gadgets as well having to grapple with the high cost of internet data.
In an interview with CITE, National University of Science and Technology (Nust) Students Representative Council (SRC) president Innocent Dombo said there was uncertainity surrounding the shift to online learning.
“There is uncertainty around the academic future, as it stands right now no one knows when we are going to resume learning normally and whether or not we are going to successfully launch the online learning as a University,” said Dombo.
“We have a number of challenges with online learning as NUST, what we did initially ,we had a meeting with the administration as the student board where we were deliberating to see whether the online learning could be viable or not, then a taskforce was set to try and negotiate with service providers to try and negotiate with service providers for discounted data or free data.”
In response the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development, Amon Murwira said the government is working on addressing the challenges faced by the institutions and the students.
“We actually had a zoom meeting with all Vice Chancellors on Monday, since February even before the lockdown, we are working on making sure that we are all E-learning compliant and that we are using similar platform as Universities , So what we have done now is on Monday we agreed to speed up so that within the next two weeks, which is already less than two weeks now we are all ready,” said Minister Murwira.
“We will have another zoom meeting next week, because what we trying to do is to make sure that we offer our-learning processes and we have to make sure that we take care of obstacles that might be related with cost and we are in negotiations with the concerned authorities on how to do it in terms of helping our students, not to be inhibited by cost.”
He said the Ministry is also going to ensure that students who are meant to graduate this year complete their studies.
“But at the same time, we are also of the view that in any case if things continue like this, we have a plan, our plan is that whatever happens, we will make students finish, those ones who are about to finish,” said Prof Murwira.
“This is a problem but an opportunity to also upgrade our systems, we are working on it, Vice Chancellors are working on it, Principals of Colleges are working on it and we are looking forward to a solution, we are encouraging them to use one platform that makes it easy for interchangeability.
He added that tertiary institutions will open once the country has dealt with the novel virus.
“The plan is to open Universities when there is less danger because life is very important, we don’t want to put our staff, students and the nation in danger, Universities are places where people mix a lot from everywhere so they are the highest risk areas when it comes to disease control,” he said.