Bongani Ndlovu , Chronicle Reporter
GOVERNMENT is working to establish computer laboratories in schools in order to give computer access to all children as part of addressing the challenge faced by rural pupils who have failed to benefit from virtual learning due to lack of facilities.
This was said on Thursday by Minister for Presidential Affairs and Monitoring Implementation of Government Programmes, Dr Joram Gumbo during a site visit to an e-Learning Laboratory at Mzinyathini High School in Umzingwane District.
The minister was accompanied by Matabeleland South Provincial Affairs and Devolution Minister, Abednego Ncube, Provincial Development Co-ordinator Ms Latiso Dhlamini and Chief Gwebu.
The Deputy Minister of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services Dingilizwe Phuthi launched the e-Learning project in September. The e-Learning Laboratory has 30 laptops for the pupils and teachers.
The school was established in 1968 catering for mainly technical and vocational learners.
It has an enrolment of 409 learners: 68 borders and 341 day scholars.
The school has 13 classrooms, two science laboratories and one computer lab.
The ICT project is being implemented by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services and was prioritised under the 8th 100 Day Cycle Programme of the Second Republic.
Categorising a project under the 100 Day Cycle initiative, facilitates monitoring and tracking progress to assist implementing agents in meeting their targets through exploring possible interventions to challenges that may impede the smooth implementation of projects.
This is part of the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) which recognises that the creation of a digital economy will be key in the realisation of National Priorities and overall socio-economic development.
NDS1 identifies ICTs as key enabler of economic development and the entrenchment of ICTS across all national development strategies is critical for the attainment of universal access by 2030.
Minister Gumbo said the introduction of a nationwide lockdown in March 2020 led to the closure of schools which forced pupils to go on prolonged holidays.
He said the pandemic brought to the fore the importance of ICTs in business, health care, education and public services.
“The pandemic also laid bare the fact that many in our communities lack access to the internet as well as the equipment that should enable them to work remotely and access vital services through online platforms.
This is particularly true for students enrolled at schools located in outlying districts of the country who face serious challenges in accessing ICT resources,” he said.
“Virtual learning has been adopted by all schools albeit in an environment where cellphones and laptops are at the disposal of a few students. This is why Government is promoting the establishment of computer laboratories in schools in order to give computer access to all children.”
Minister Gumbo said the establishment of the e-Learning Laboratory is in line with President Mnangagwa’s vision to transform the country into a knowledge-based society.
“It is against this backdrop that I applaud the establishment of the e-Learning Laboratory at uMzinyathi High School which will assist in ameliorating the ICT services infrastructure challenges confronting students in the jurisdiction. It is my hope that the 30 computers that have been provided will benefit all learners and enable teachers to use modern aids derived from the internet,” said Minister Gumbo.
“It is important to underscore that the wish of His Excellency, the President, is for all schools to embrace e-Learning.
The ultimate objective is to transform our country into a knowledge-based society. This can only be done through accelerating the development, like we have witnessed here today.
I am pleased to report that similar projects are being replicated in various provinces of the country. A fortnight ago I had an opportunity to tour a similar project at Katsenga Primary School in Makoni District of Manicaland Province.”
Minister Gumbo said Government is targeting to increase the internet penetration rate from 59,1 percent to 75 percent by 2025 and the mobile penetration rate is also expected to increase from 94,2 percent to 100 percent by 2025 in order to ensure improved access and usage of ICTs.
Minister Ncube said most of the rural learners are not computer literate and such an e-Laboratory will be a game changer.
“The laptops have created a conducive environment as they are in a position to research and do their studies without any difficulties.
As a rural school most of the learners are computer illiterate, this will go a long way in covering the gaps. In this day and age, it is uncalled for to have learners who are not equipped with computer skills.
The laptops will be a game changer, as the learners will become relevant even after school. Teaching has now been made easy with the arrival of these gadgets and this will go a long way in ensuring efficient lesson delivery,” said Minister Ncube.
He urged school authorities and the community to guard the gadgets jealously so that future generations will also benefit from them.
“We will cherish and protect this facility for the benefit of all those using the facility to improve online learning, research, e-Learning on a local scale.
This facility will enhance equitable access to information in general and services in particular, creating a platform for knowledge sharing,” said Minister Ncube.
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