Mirriam Madiye Features Writer
• Backyard lessons, which students attend physically, are a hotspot for contracting the Covid -19.
• Online lessons offered by some teachers are out of the reach of many ordinary Zimbabwean parents.
• The lessons range from RTGS $500 to $1200 per month
It cannot be disputed that Covid-19 altered the lives of millions across the globe.
Globally, non-essential businesses closed in line with lockdown regulations. In most countries, churches and beerhalls also closed leaving worshipers and guzzlers respectively between a hard rock and surface.
Social gatherings were banned as a way of containing Covid-19, the list is endless. Students have also faced the wrath of the effects of Covid-19.
In Zimbabwe when most students thought that schools would reopen January 5 this year, all hopes were shattered as the number of Covid -19 cases soared. This resulted in government rescheduling the reopening of schools, indefinitely.
In the absence of face to face classes with teachers, online lessons have been recommended so that pupils regain lost learning time. While school lessons were being broadcast on radio through emergency learning modules, students feel these are not enough. For many, data costs and unavailability of gadgets with an internet connection remain a challenge.
The Herald spoke to some parents and students on the issue of online lessons with most raising data charges concerns. Charity Maviseni, a mother of three school going children said she does not have a smart phone hence her children cannot access online tutorials sent by their teachers.
“I sometimes ask the teachers to send the learning materials on my neighbour’s phone but she has been complaining that I am using a lot of her data. So most of the time my kids just play and miss out,” said Maviseni who is a vendor and sells fruits in Norton.
She does not have a radio so her kids cannot access radio lessons. Another parent Nomthandazo Moyo, of Kuwadzana said online lessons are a noble idea considering the Covid-19 situation the country is in.
“The lessons being offered online by some teachers are out of the reach of many ordinary Zimbabwean parents. The lessons range from RTGS $500 to $1200 per month depending with the grade or form that the student is in,” said Moyo.
He noted that such kind of money is out of reach for most parents especially those living in the rural areas and poor backgrounds.
“This disadvantages poor students as they will not be able to access lessons. The online lessons are very expensive and a big toll for parents and guardians considering that we are in lockdown.”
She added that most worrying is most people are not going to work as a result of Covid-19 lockdown.
“Such people have no other source of income at the moment to pay the teachers and buy the required learning resources.
“We are using the little money we have to buy groceries,” noted Moyo.
Moyo urged the government to find another way to enable smooth lessons so that every student benefits no matter one’s background or status. Tatenda Chaora, a teacher from Dzivarasekwa said online lessons have both positive and negative effects. She said the lessons benefitted a few.
“The good side is with resources available, the online lessons benefit all students considering the Covid -19 pandemic which has resulted in schools being closed for a long time.
“With online lessons, students will be compensating for lost time. Last year, students attended lessons for only three months. Online lessons also curtail the Covid-19 spread.”
Chaora added that online lessons also curb the mushrooming of backyard classes.
“Such backyard lessons, which students attend physically, are a hotspot for contracting the Covid -19. There will be no social distancing or sanitizers available,” said Chaora.
Chaora added that it is important to furnish all the students with the concept of online lessons in case of future occurrences. A Form 4 student, Nyasha Musipa, said the online lessons do not create a conducive learning environment for all the students in the country.
“The online lessons disadvantage some children as it is not a user friendly concept. All students are used to physical learning where they have the opportunity to interact with the teacher face to face. In cases of face to face interaction, the students understand the concept better and have enough time to raise questions. The teacher also has enough time explain,” she said.
Musipa added that online lessons also require data and good network connection.
“If a student does not have data and facing network challenges, he or she is unable to attend the lessons. So what happens to a student in Binga who does not have a mobile phone, a laptop, money for data or facing electricity or network challenges?” quizzed Musipa.