CABINET this week announced an ambitious national e-learning strategy under which 1 500 schools will get internet connectivity before year-end and 3 000 teachers are to undergo information communication technology training by June.
The strategy outlines other targets, including the electrification of 434 schools and manufacture of up to 150 000 digital gadgets.
While the e-learning strategy sounds useful on paper, in reality it is a half-baked policy intervention which is coming an entire year after the Covid-19 lockdowns began.
The government has fared dismally in providing remote learning, with the real danger that an alarming number of children will now be forced to drop out of school.
Already, there are frightening reports that 5 000 schoolgirls have fallen pregnant in January and February alone.
Before anyone delves into the idea of e-learning in the Zimbabwean setting, we must first look into the fundamentals.
We should never assume that every pupil has access to internet connectivity. That is a dangerous assumption.
Many students do not have electricity and gadgets, let alone expensive broadband access.
Owing to decades of chronic under-funding, the education system has declined markedly. As a result, some schools do not even have proper classrooms.
If you doubt this, visit the outlying districts, such as Binga and Hwange, and witness for yourself the squalid shacks designated as schools by heartless public officials who should know better.
The collapse of Zimbabwe’s education system is directly linked to bad governance and incompetent leadership.
The Rwandan government built 22 000 new classrooms in 2020 to achieve Covid-19 social distancing.
But Zimbabwe, with its vast natural and human resources, is failing to build a few dozen classrooms in rural districts. It beggars belief.
The future belongs to those nations which seriously invest in education, research and development.
The government must not only ramp up the education sector’s technological capabilities but also ensure the basics are in place: classrooms, electricity, learning materials and motivated teachers.
However, all this will come to naught if the destruction of the economy continues.
Teachers deserve to be rewarded for their toil.
Pupils have no gadgets and there is no electricity to power the devices. All this requires a hefty financial outlay and, more importantly, visionary leadership.