Government encouraged to consider rural learners in light of Day of Education

ZIMBABWE joined the rest of the world in commemorating the International Day of Education on Monday with calls for the Government to consider rural learners who have missed out on learning since 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 outbreak affected the school calendar but the brunt will be borne by rural learners who have no access to data, gadgets and necessary skills for online learning which is currently in place to cover up gaps left by suspended physical learning.

UNESCO set aside the day to promote education as a human right that plays an important role in achieving Sustainable Development Goal 4. SGD 4 is a developmental goal that seeks to ensure inclusive, equitable and quality education that promotes lifelong learning opportunities for all.

UNESCO stated without remedial action, better support to teachers and increased financing, learning losses and school dropout will continue to rise, reversing progress towards all the Sustainable Development Goals and depriving youth of a future of dignity and opportunity.

Former teacher and Nkayi South legislator who is also part of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, Ms Stars Mathe said learners from rural areas last accessed proper learning before the COVID-19 outbreak.

She said authorities may be in denial for now but in six years the country will reap the full effects of interruptions caused by the pandemic.

“In all honesty, learners from rural areas last had access to education in the 2020 first term before the COVID-19 induced lockdowns and since then, things have gone from bad to worse. There were efforts to introduce radio and online lessons but a majority failed to access and that way their right to education was tempered with,” she said.

“Commemorating this day means nothing to us because we know that soon we will see the result when our children drop out and fail in numbers. Something should be done to help them catch up and be at par with other learners who were fortunate enough to have data and gadgets for alternative learning. ”

Gabriella Baloyi from Lupane said rural learners especially girls need an intervention to help them catch up as some were already after failing to access education during lockdowns.

“We have a looming crisis in rural areas and soon our Government will realise that these lockdowns disrupted a lot of potential in our learners who seem to be giving up on school. We cannot assume that all learners had access to online and radio lessons during continued closure of schools. Many of our learners have dropped out, some are married with children and the rest will fail to pass their exams if nothing is done to make education inclusive,” she said.

Contacted for comment, the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education spokesperson Taungana Ndoro said transforming the future requires an urgent rebalancing of relationships with each other, with nature as well as with technology.

“As commemorate this day in these exceptional times, business as usual is no longer an option, hence the need for all of us all to work together. Providing teachers with the recognition and professional support to collaborate and innovate will carry strong influence on the future of learning,” said Ndoro.

“Redefining our relationship with technology begins with ensuring that digital tools benefit all and are at the service of all, starting with the most marginalised. The digital transformation must be steered around inclusion and quality which we strive to achieve as a Ministry in line with Vision 2030.”

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