Students fret over online learning

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Tertiary students are up in arms against their institutions over online learning, which universities and colleges have turned to following the disruption of the academic year due to the outbreak of COVID-19.

In a letter to the Higher Education ministry, Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) secretary general Tapiwanashe Chiriga said accessing online learning portals was difficult and expensive forlearners.

“While we recognise the need to continue with learning during this terrible time and the need to embrace technology, it is our position that learning, at all material times, should be accessible and affordable to all students,” said Chiriga.

Another concern was that students whose fees remained outstanding were being shut out of e-learning portals.

Chiriga called on the government to clear the air on this, as some learners were being prejudiced.

In addition, he asked the ministry to engage mobile network operators so they could either allow students to access e-learning material for free or at least reduce the cost for going online.

“We consider it possible that your ministry ensures tertiary institutions engage mobile networkoperators (MNOs) to enable students to access institutions’ sites that have the ac.zw domain at zero rate so that every student can access them,” Chiriga wrote.

“Should the accessing websites at zero rate fail, that your ministry liaises with MNOs for the creation of an e-learning bundle.

“A data bouquet that will be cheaper than the usual one and will be solely for the access of websites with the ac.zw domain.”

President Emmerson Mnangagwa declared a 21-day lockdown, due to end on Sunday, in an effort to curb the spread of the pathogen that causes the coronavirus.

With the order, learning was disrupted, but some institutions have come with some novel ways to ensure that students do not fall too far behind with their studies.

Zimbabwe has so far confirmed 24 COVID-19 infections, three deaths and two recoveries.