BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
ZIMBABWE has been adjudged as average in terms of access to e-learning during the COVID-19 pandemic, the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) said in its latest New Remote Learning Readiness Index.
Government rolled out e-learning, radio and TV-broadcast lessons following the closure of schools as a COVID-19 preventive measure.
However, the digital divide as seen in lack of e-learning tools, high cost of data, lack of telecommunications coverage among others resulted in learners from poor and marginalised backgrounds not benefiting.
According to a Unicef report titled Ensuring Equal Access To Education In Future Crises: Findings of the New Remote Learning Readiness Index, Zimbabwe scored three out of a possible five in terms of access to e-learning during the pandemic.
“A country receives three stars if it demonstrates average performance in its two weakest domains,” Unicef said.
“A three-star rating signifies that the country’s remote learning systems can be regarded as relatively resilient, although serious concerns still remain about the potential for learning loss and the extent to which learning can continue in case of disrupted in-person instruction.
“The COVID-19 pandemic caused the largest worldwide schooling disruption ever seen and made remote learning the only option while schools were closed.”
Among the 67 low and middle-income countries analysed, 19 have above average ranking (five stars), 17 have average remote learning readiness with three stars and 31 have below-average remote learning readiness with one or two stars.
“Even though many countries have reopened their schools, remote learning still plays an important role in filling the learning gap caused by schooling disruptions. Countries with prolonged school closures and low remote learning readiness are likely to experience significant challenges getting children back on track,” Unicef said.
It noted the need for countries to invest in remote learning infrastructure to respond to any disruptions to physical learning.
“Children from rural areas and poorer households are the most deprived, lacking access to many remote learning tools at home. These discrepancies in household asset possession are likely to exacerbate existing inequalities in learning and other labour market outcomes. Therefore, it is imperative that the most vulnerable children receive the necessary support to continue learning,” the UN agency said.
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