By Edward Mukaro
THE Government of Zimbabwe (GoZ) has come under fire for continuing with the education radio lessons, a platform that some vulnerable communities might not have access to.
Since the 3rd March 2020, schools have remained closed in Zimbabwe, the longest period in the southern African nation, as the country enters 123 days since government called for a lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID- 19 pandemic.
Government through the ministry of education had scheduled for schools reopening on 28 July, but backtracked as confirmed cases of COVID- 19 skyrocketed.
However, 2 months ago authorities gave thumps to radio lessons for pupils, which has drawn the ire of teachers unions, the non-governmental sector, parents, teachers and students, alike.
In an exclusive interview, fiery Progressive Teachers Association of Zimbabwe secretary-general, Raymond Majongwe implored government to invest in inclusive education and stop celebrating modernity without investment.
“How many people in this country own a radio? And if they own one, do they have power for it (electricity), or solar to power the radio? Do they have batteries for it? No, they don’t?
“How many citizens in this country have access to ZBC and Ztv? Have you ever interrogated that the biggest chunk of Zimbabweans from the borderlines from Victoria Falls, going down to Tsholotsho, Mangwe, Plumtree and take the other curve, Gwanda and get to Beitbridge. How many of those have ever listened to ZBC? They listen to South African, Botswana and Zambian radio stations. Why? Because our waves don’ go there!
“Education must never exclude others. The moment it excludes others, then we have a problem. How about children who can’t hear? How are they going to teach them? So we can’t celebrate modernity and yet we are not ready to invest,” said Majongwe.
In a statement, the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe said, “While it has been over 2 months since the roll-out of school lessons through radio and other virtual platforms, we continue to raise concern on the widening equality gap amongst pupils, particularly in relation to female pupils, rural and pupils from marginalized communities with no or limited access to electricity, internet connectivity or radio reception.
“We, therefore, request a report on the progression of radio and virtual lessons. We, therefore, recommend setting in place monitoring and evaluation strategies to measure the success and practicability of the radio programme and virtual lessons initiative,” WCoZ stated.
The women’s rights lobby group further urged the education ministry to tabulate data on pupil’s access to radio lessons, while disaggregating it (data) according to sex.
“We further recommend that the ministry of primary and secondary education continuously collect disaggregated data and update the nation on pupil’s access and attendance to the radio lessons.
“The data must be gender-disaggregated, to ensure that girls attend the lessons, and are not consumed with the burden of unpaid care-work, within the household.”
According to the latest Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (ZimStat), Multiple Indicator Survey 2019 findings report, the percentage of households with a radio (nationwide) is 40.2 percent, with the Urban households recording a 39.7%, compared to the rural which has 40.5% households owning a radio.
By Edward Mukaro