THE closure of schools, because of the ravaging COVID-19 pandemic, has brought to the fore limitations of relying solely on face-to-face learning in schools.
Since the COVID-19 virus is passed from person-to-person, schools become ideal centres of spreading it because of the large number of students who converge there.
That is why schools, colleges and universities, among other institutions, had to be closed at the height of the pandemic.
But the consequences were disastrous.
The latest Grade Seven results, where some schools recorded zero percent pass rates are a sad testimony to this.
Students, especially those from remote rural areas, were cut off from any form of classroom learning.
Minus the discipline associated with schools, a number of students became victims of the evils associated with the outside world.
Sexual mischief resulted in an unusually large number of teenage pregnancies by the ‘temporary school dropouts’.
Drug and alcohol abuse as well as other forms of mischief popular with school ‘dropouts’ became fashionable among some of these students who had been left loose. We are all aware of the effects of peer pressure on children of this age who have been forced to remain ‘idle’ because of the absence of school environment.
That is why there have been repeated attempts to reopen schools.
But these attempts were often shelved because of the spike in the pandemic casualties.
After the January 5 Level Four lockdown restrictions, which were eased on March 1, it looks like now there is a progressive decline in COVID-19 new infections.
That is why once more the Government had to hazard to reopen schools. We welcome this gesture.
We have been assured measures have been taken to reduce probability of transmissions of the virus among students, teachers and the school communities at all schools.
This includes the mammoth task of recruiting more teachers to make sure an acceptable ratio of teacher-pupil is maintained.
We are looking forward to safe school environments with the necessary protective equipment, including usable masks.
We are optimistic once schools resume, there won’t be any disruptions caused by a surge in infections.
This happened in November last year.
However, success at this stage should not be seen as an endgame.
We cannot rule out the possibility of a third wave, which might force another closure of schools.
This time, we should not be caught napping.
That is why we welcome the electronic learning strategy approved by the Government on Tuesday.
Face-to-face learning has its limitations, while e-learning is fast becoming the in-thing.
This should be so as the Government implements its priority programmes on innovation, science and technology.
What should be key to this ambitious strategy is inclusivity.
The Government is expected to chip in massively to ensure that rural schools are not denied relevant gadgets, including electricity, to facilitate this programme.
The Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) should construct enough base stations to facilitate connectivity in all rural areas, Dotito and Tsholotsho included.
Service providers like NetOne and TelOne must also ensure efficient connectivity to all schools, including those in remote areas.
ZBC is also expected to provide radio and television channels exclusively devoted to e-learning to all corners of the country.
This is possible and by 2025, we are expecting a level playing field in the e-learning environment at all schools.