Is Zimbabwe ready for education system digitisation?…… a glimpse into the future

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EDUCATION and technology are said to be the two big equalisers in life.
Conversely, the explosion of information now available to us expands our view of the world.
As a result of the ability to communicate globally and the information explosion, education must inevitably change.
The nation is faced with the challenge to prepare Zimbabwe’s children of today, for a world that has yet to be created, for jobs yet to be invented and for technologies yet undreamt of.
The trends in technology are creating a future that is arriving faster than education is preparing for it.
Taking a glimpse into the future, the prospect of a fully applicable e-learning-based education system in sub-Saharan Africa, and Zimbabwe in particular, a decade ago, seemed implausible — more so in landlocked Zimbabwe.
The importance of ICT for education and the development of the new education curriculum in Zimbabwe cannot be over-stated.
The development and the upliftment of the livelihoods of Zimbabweans with reference to the education curriculum will come from a radicalised, developmental, patriotic and practically all embracing digital curriculum.
Limited access to suitable 21st Century curricula and affordable higher education will make it difficult for members of the next generation to find their place in the modern economy.
To the majority of Zimbabweans, however, some who may not have heard of ICT, it is important to be cognisant of such developments. Given ICT now dominates information dispersal worldwide, one cannot ignore the interface between ICT with pedagogy and its impact on the future of education in Zimbabwe.
However, technological fluency is more than technological literacy; it requires that peoplel be as comfortable using technology as they are reading the newspaper.
As late as 2010, Africa’s broadband penetration was at an ultimate low in comparison to the rest of the world, thus hindering the accelerated development of an educational and commercial communication infrastructure that would make e-learning an actuality.
The advent of advanced computer technology in Zimbabwe and the rest of Africa are presenting a ray of light for African governments attempting to steer their education systems into the new digital age. In terms of improving access to education, the digitisation of learning is affording many alternatives to addressing the socio-economic challenges facing many emerging economies in Africa and elsewhere.
While today we can claim to have a clearer vision of what the emerging disciplines of socio-economic development and education is like in the next decade, we require considerable post-colonial study to feed our digital hubs.
Old knowledge in the process of digitisation is in danger of being further obliterated, and as such, Zimbabwe must not become a victim of Eurocentric and American knowledge domination.
Before our Zimbabwean education administration can adapt to this new and unique world digital culture and environment, it is important for Zimbabwean educators to have a sense of where the world is headed; only then will we be able to adequately prepare current and future students to thrive in this ever-changing world.
Conclusively thus, higher education that serves the educational aspirations of students from historically disadvantaged backgrounds at minimal or no cost is a prerequisite for the future of most African and developing nations.
By virtue of the inclusion of ICT and e-learning in the new curriculum, students will be able to raise their skills to a competitive level and achieve international standards of excellence.
Students, who can think creatively, engage in open educational dialogue and care about advancing the socio-economic transformation of Zimbabwe will be able to do so more effectively via the use of ICT tools.
A decent communication infrastructure to make e-learning a reality already exists in the country.
The system is simply in need of capacity development, upgrading and dispersal to the proximity of schools and manpower training around the country to be effective in the education domain.
The digitisation of education is providing plenty alternatives to address the socio-economic challenges facing many emerging economies, particularly in terms of improving access to education.
According to a 2015 education and ICT report,
As far back as 2011, governments in the Middle East were already discussing the complete digitisation of curricula at their schools with the likes of Microsoft. In Ghana, a total of 40 000 laptops had been distributed to 372 primary schools across several regions by the beginning of 2013 as part of the country’s efforts to digitise the academic syllabus of both primary and secondary schools.
Digitisation of education can assist in addressing many challenges including, access to education, affordability, language, distance and discrimination.
Furthermore, it enables the mass delivery of quality education across geographical boundaries.
Some schools in North, East and West Africa have already eliminated the use of the usual textbooks and blackboards among its primary school learners and their teachers now use Android tablets as education tools.
Each classroom now has a Wi-Fi access point.
As opposed to spending significant amounts of money on textbooks, the learners’ parents will in future only have to pay for 7-inch and 10-inch tablets to be modernised with the appropriate scholastic year’s curriculum.
While by virtue of my analogue education, I am a fanatic of paperbacks, addicted to paper, pen, ink and the written word, and still hold personal apprehension towards the reliability of electronic and virtual education, one cannot, however, ignore the numerous convincing and persuasive reasons digitisation of education should be embraced in Zimbabwe.
Furthermore, e-learning is easily accessible via the most popular mode of electronic communication on the continent – the digital mobile phone.
Today surprisingly, Africa has one of the highest mobile Internet connectivity strengths in the world.
Africa is on the threshold of a pioneering and exciting digital era brought about by the various African governments’ concerted efforts to make ICT a major part of their education system and social development plans.
The African continent is also critically investing in the undersea fibre optic cables. Zimbabwe cannot afford to be left behind.
A syllabus and classroom will virtually be in the palm of our hands.
Dr Tony Monda holds a PhD in Art Theory and Philosophy and a DBA (Doctorate in Business Administration) and post-colonial Heritage Studies. He is a writer, musician, art critic, practicing artist and corporate image consultant. He is also a specialist art consultant, post-colonial scholar, Zimbabwean socio-economic analyst and researcher. E-mail: tonym.MONDA@gmail.com

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