Zvamaida Murwira Harare Bureau
PRIMARY and Secondary Education Minister Lazarus Dokora yesterday faced down Senators as he defended controversial new proposals to allow the use of mobile phones and other communication devices in schools.
Banning the devices, the minister said in the Senate, was akin to resisting technology.
In place of a total ban, the minister is proposing that schools should draw up guidelines on the use of mobile phones and other gizmos such as iPads within the school grounds.
“We’ve told teachers not to fight technology. We don’t want our pupils to be surprised by these gadgets when they’re at universities. Guidance is, however, necessary about their use and sites which are not to be accessed,” he said.
Mobile phones, just like computers, said Dokora, could be used for research and teachers could even create WhatsApp groups, for instance, with their pupils where assignments and other learning guidance can be provided.
Minister Dokora said mobile phones had functions consistent with those that were on a computer and the use of such gadgets was in line with President Mugabe’s computerisation programme that has been rolled out to schools countrywide. “What you now call a cellphone is actually a computer in itself because of convergence,” said Dokora, responding to a question from Mashonaland East traditional leader, Chief Musarurwa.
Chief Musarurwa had asked what the government policy was on the use of mobile phones in schools and whether parents had been consulted.
He said there was a fear that pupils could end up exposed to pornographic material should mobile phones be allowed in schools.
Other Senators asked if allowing mobile phones with calculator functions would not make children lazy as they would just resort to the mobile phone in search for answers instead of thinking.
Minister Dokora said because of technological convergence, most functions on mobile phones were also on computers which are now readily accessible to the children.