THE release of “O” Level results from last year’s examinations was met with an unprecedented outcry across the nation.
DR SAMUEL CHINDARO
Now that the dust has settled and emotions have calmed down, and a new government is in place, it is time to take a sober look at this vital aspect of the nation’s future.
The majority of the reactions were peddled with blame-finding and finger-pointing with a number of prominent figures playing political gymnastics with the results.
This was evidenced by various headlines such as: ‘O’ Level results: Who is to blame?, Education in free-fall, Pass rate increased from 2009, Coltart admits ‘O’ Level results crisis, Fall in ‘O’ Level results blamed on de-motivated teachers and Coltart making a bad situation worse, to name but a few.
It was apparent that some of these statements were based on mis-information, hidden/political-motives or just irresponsibility and recklessness.
It is not acceptable for prominent figures to play political games with the country’s biggest asset — education.
Instead of throwing mud at each other and burying our heads in the sand, the nation should now do some serious soul-searching and try and find ways in which this situation can be arrested and improved.
It is irresponsible, to say the least, to play political gymnastics with the welfare of future generations.
Education and human capital are fundamental to the socio-economic development of Zimbabwe.
It was evident that the outcry was a reflection of the high standards in education that Zimbabwe has set since independence, and consequently the high expectations.
Despite the sanctions-inspired crisis in the education sector, Zimbabwe’s literacy rate remains the best in Africa as reported in the most recent survey, and this is credit to the government which made education on government schools free at independence, built thousands of schools, trained thousands of teachers and availed opportunities for higher education studies previously unavailable to the majority pre-independence.
Complex, multi-faceted challenges being faced by the education sector in Zimbabwe can be linked to the socio-economic conditions that the country finds itself in which were exacerbated by the illegal sanctions.
These range from brain drain to lack of basic infrastructure.
Despite these challenges, it is the belief of this author that prioritising the utilisation of information and communication technology (ICT) in education will go a long way in addressing them.
ICT includes radio, television, and digital technologies such as computers and the Internet which are powerful enabling tools for educational change and reform.
When used appropriately, different ICTs can help in expanding access to education, strengthen the relevance of education to the increasingly digital world, and raise educational quality by, among others, helping make teaching and learning into an engaging, active process connected to real life.
The government is well aware of the potential of ICTs to help address some of the above challenges.
The recognition of the prominent role which ICT can play in improving education in Zimbabwe was signified by the establishment of a fully-fledged ICT ministry.
Awareness at the highest level has been demonstrated by the launching of programmes such as the “Presidential e-Learning Programme”, “Presidential Computerisation Programme” and opening of e-Learning Centres across the country.
Despite numerous benefits of ICT, there are many varied issues and challenges countries face when integrating ICT in education.
Overreaching all of them is the need for an ICT policy in education.
Embarking on ICT projects without clear policy directions will result in stunted development.
It is argued here that the lack of a clear and dedicated body that specifically deals with ICT in education in Zimbabwe has been hindering the government’s noble objectives, and will continue to do so if not addressed by the incoming government.
Any significant ICT-enabling education initiative has to integrate within the national education systems and needs to be developed on a national scale, for it to work sustainably.
Efficient integration of ICT in education requires a unified strategy for the whole sector.
The fundamental purpose of producing a specific policy would be to articulate and clarify goals and to provide a conceptual framework to guide progress towards these “ICT in education” goals.
Only a systematic approach can ensure that ICT educational goals are met in the best possible way, and the hard to reach are educated in an effective way.
If appropriate objectives are set to meet the overall goals, the outcome of this strategy will become realistic and measurable, resulting in people involved getting a clearer picture of the steps to follow and the rationale behind doing so.
The current lack of a coherent policy is likely to contribute to the development or prolonged existence of ineffective infrastructure and a waste of resources if not addressed.
ICT in itself is not going to radically change education systems for the better.
An overall view of what education should be seeking to achieve is needed for ICTs to be utilised to their full potential within education systems.
In Zimbabwe, the outgoing ministries of ICT and education between them failed to incorporate ICT in the curricula, and, therefore, the integration of ICT in education and learning remains largely un-initiated.
The fundamental issues of ICT in education development and integration cannot be resolved in isolation and, therefore, require a co-ordinated framework that establishes clear goals and priorities for reform.
Zimbabwe does not have a dedicated national policy on ICTs in education.
A targeted ICT in education policy can open ways in which the sector can strategise and explore alternate affordable solutions.
The development and integration of ICT in education need to be spear-headed by staff equipped with the specific skills for the role.
It is clear that the skills and experiences in the areas of educational technology, ICT policy formulation and planning, e-learning, and digital content creation are a prerequisite if education is going to benefit from this technology.
Dr Samuel Chindaro holds a PhD in Electronics (University of Kent), MSc in Electronics and IT (University of Birmingham) and a B.Eng. Hons in Electronic Engineering (NUST). He is also a Chartered Engineer (Institution of Engineering and Technology). He can be contacted on S.Chindaro@gmail.com