Varsities urged to go digital

By Staff reporter | 15 Apr 2020 at 20:32hrs
Amon Murwira
GOVERNMENT has advised all universities to develop material for online lectures to ensure learning is not disrupted by the national lockdown, while upholding the social distancing principle by minimising movement and interaction between students and lecturers. The government so far has done nothing to make sure that educational material is zero rated by telecom companies and data is very expensive in the impoverished country.

In an interview yesterday, Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said all universities should start developing material for online lectures to be conducted during the lockdown. Prof Murwira said President Mnangagwa would decide when universities would reopen depending on the assessment on the Covid-19 situation.

President Mnangagwa declared a 21-day lockdown from March 30, limiting movement, shutting most non-essential businesses and suspending normal flights in and out of the country.

"The position that we have taken as a ministry is to be guided by the decisions taken by the Head of State and Government," said Prof Murwira.

"Our primary objective is to safeguard life. However, we have told our universities to start developing material online for students.

"We are going to make a follow-up on this. We also acknowledge that there are some universities that are more advanced while some might be behind." Midlands State University (MSU) has started working on introducing online lectures for its students.

The institution has about 23 000 students, including foreigners, in three different campuses. MSU director of public relations Mrs Mirirai Mawere said the institution was working on the modalities to assess the feasibility of the online lectures. The lockdown coincided with the institution's semester break and Easter holiday.

Mrs Mawere said the university was tabling the proposal and also considering some underprivileged students that did not have access to the internet on a daily basis.

"We are proposing to have online lecturers for our students," she said.

"What we want is to look at the modalities of the proposal. We want to see the practicability of online lectures considering that we have underprivileged students from rural communities who might not always have access to the internet.

"We are looking at the increasing cases of Covid-19 and we do not know who the students have interacted with during the lockdown and we want to minimise movement and interaction as well as depopulating our campuses so that we reduce the risk of spreading the pandemic."

Zimbabwe Open University uses an efficient online platform called MyVista to communicate with students who are able to access and submit their assignments and access modules and other additional learning materials.



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