The downside to radio lessons explained

RADIO lessons are key in maintaining the much-needed educational continuity during the COVID-19 pandemic, although the program has left thousands without access to education as they do not have radio sets, phones, electricity and the required network.

The Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education launched the radio lessons program in June 2020, starting with the primary level.

This was after experts advised that schools be closed to curb the spread of COVID-19 which has since claimed lives of more than 650 Zimbabweans. Radio lessons were part of local radio programming until 2021. The re-launch of the vital learning tool was deemed as a good move for continuous learning for about 4,5 million learners during the global pandemic.

In an interview, the Zimbabwe Teachers Association (ZIMTA) chairperson Dr Sifiso Ndlovu said although the lessons had enabled learning during COVID-19, a majority of learners had failed to access them.

“It will be very difficult for us to say anything about the effectiveness of the radio programs as we are aware that thousands of learners did not access those lessons due to poverty and lack of network,” said Dr Ndlovu.

He said the radio lessons were effective to keep learners busy but those in primary schools needed more physical lessons in class to be able to grasp concepts.

“In many homes especially in rural areas where most of the learners are, there may be one or two ordinary phones for elders which cannot be easily accessed by children for their school work. This means thousands of children have been missing out during the COVID-19 induced lockdown. The solution is simple, we need vaccines so that we open schools and go back to our usual way of teaching which ensures that no child is left behind,” said Dr Ndlovu.

One of the affected parents Ms Sonia Ncube from Sibangani Village in Lupane said her three children had not been able to access radio since the method was introduced for learners.

She said the family only has one faulty cellular phone which makes it hard for the children to access radio lessons.

“We have heard that learners are now relying on the radio for lessons but unfortunately our children cannot access those. We do not have a radio for starters and the network is so poor in our area,” said Ms Ncube.

She said it was better for learners to go back to the normal way of learning so that her children and thousand others may catch up.

Mrs Tumelo Nare from Gwanda said the radio lessons helped to keep learners out of trouble during lockdown although network challenges and power cuts left many households with no access to the radio.

“We were pleased to hear that despite the pandemic, children will access lessons through the radio. However, we have many households without a radio set and those who have may struggle because of power cuts and low network,” she said.

“I think the program also benefited learners from urban areas but our children in the rural areas did not fully access those and indeed they are way too far behind as we speak.”

Gender and disability activist, Ms Soneni Gwizi said COVID-19 had literally forced many children with disabilities to go for months without access to education.

She said although radio lessons are in place, pupils with hearing impairments cannot access these lessons as a result to their disability.

“It has become a big struggle to access education during these COVID-19 times because these complementary lessons are not packaged to cater for people with disabilities (PWD). We actually wish things would go back to normal and our members go back to school where there are qualified teachers fluent in Sign Language because even at home some parents and guardians are unable to communicate or help learners with school work using Sign language,” said Ms Gwizi.

She called for inclusive education where PWDs can access lessons despite any disability they have as Zimbabwean learners.



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