BY VARAIDZO MUDEWAIRI UNICEF today handed over 1500 radio sets and 1500 Universal Serial Bus (USBs) with pre-recorded radio lessons to promote offline learning to urban and marginalised communities in the country.
The radio sets and USBs will assist students to cover up for the learning time they lost during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Speaking during the solar radio handover ceremony today, UNICEF representative Tajudeen Oyewale said his organisation will continue supporting Zimbabwean learners.
“As UNICEF, we are strongly committed that every child has the right to education. With assistance from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), UNICEF procured additional 1500 solar radio sets to further promote access to radio lessons in remote areas by secondary school students in disadvantaged communities.
“The radios are equipped with a USB port which enables students to learn through pre-recorded lessons and offline playback of digital files. Taking advantage of this specification, the procurement of 1500 memory sticks uploaded with pre-recorded lessons that were developed and aired on the radio is also in progress. The solar radio sets will be distributed with the memory sticks to 1500 secondary schools across the country, benefitting a total of about 400,000 learners, “he said.
Oyewale said since the advent of COVID-19 induced school closures in March 2020, UNICEF has been supporting various alternatives and blended learning arrangements put in place by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education to ensure that children continue accessing education during school closures through the provision of radio lessons introduced in June 2020.
In 2021, UNICEF procured and distributed 3,000 solar radio sets to targeted disadvantaged primary schools and community learning circles across the country. This included schools in Tongogara camp, which were supported with radio lessons.
Oyewale said since the launch of the Catch-Up Strategy in 2021 by the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, UNICEF has procured teaching and learning materials for every primary and secondary school in all 72 districts, benefitting about 4.6 million children.
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“These include 700,000 Grade 7 self-study guides, 600,000 Mathematics textbooks, 14,000 copies of the Assessment framework, 300,000 Catch-up teaching and learning materials, and 450,000 Grade 5 and 6 Workbooks and 210,000 Non-Formal Education Modules.
“There is no doubt that the arrival of the solar radios at the schools and communities will help learners to catch-up with the standard curriculum”, he said.
Primary and Secondary Education minister Eveline Ndlovu said the past two years has taught the ministry to adopt and adapt to ways of teaching and learning that are digitised and premised on use of technological gadgets.
She said provision of access to education has proved to be quite challenging for the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education due to the unforeseen scourges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The radios will also provide alternative learning, remote learning and blended learning to both formal learners and non-formal learners, thereby bridging in the gap caused by the increased drop-out rate due to various disasters that have affected the country’s face to face instruction due to COVID 19 pandemic,” Ndlovu said.
She said her ministry will ensure that learners with hearing challenges access the lessons in script form or on other alternative platforms.
Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) development director Geraldine O’Callaghan said the United Kingdom government is committed to support all children in Zimbabwe to achieve their potential and to be able to continue learning regardless of where they live.
“In particular, when asked to see what support we could provide to the ministry’s catch-up strategy and implementation framework over the last two years, we have been happy to fund over US$1m to provide materials such as reading and numeracy cards and teachers and school heads guides to first determine the levels of foundational literacy and numeracy needed by students to enable them to learn effectively, and then provide teachers with methods to increase those literacy levels. These materials are now in all primary and secondary schools across the country,” she said.