By Aleck Murimigwa
The Covid-19 induced lock down government introduced since the advent of the deadly pandemic in March 2020 has had a bearing on equal access to education calls, with learners in rural communities particularly the female learners suffering the most than their male counterparts.
Last month the world Commemorated International Day of education the United Nations said it occurred “in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to a global learning disruption of unprecedented scale and severity.”
In Zimbabwe, educators challenge the government to give an ear to the long-standing call to afford learners in rural communities the same internet infrastructure urban-based learners enjoy otherwise equal access to education will remain a pipe dream.
Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe secretary general Raymond Majongwe said equal access to education remains a pipe dream as long as government does not provide internet infrastructure to all children especially those in rural communities.
“If you look at the reality of the 2020 grade seven (7) examination results you can actual tell a clear distinct line where elite and affluent schools did very well while those in rural poor communities performed dismally.
“Surely government cannot expect parents of lesser means to buy Information Communication Technology gadgets for their kids,” Majongwe said.
Majongwe implored government to adopt the Rwandan educational framework where learners are provided with e-learning gadgets in a bid to afford learners equal access to education.
“We need to see the Ministry of ICT coming up and brokering favorible deals for kids in rural areas. This is what we see in Rwanda where gadgets are provided unlike in Zimbabwe where data service providers are milking and killing poor communities who cannot afford e-learning tools. As long as this position that favors the rich stays, equal access to education will remain nothing but a pipe dream,” Majongwe said.
Amalgamated Rural Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (ARTUZ)President Obert Masaraure conceded to Majongwe’s observations that gaps to attain equal access to educational services in Zimbabwe remain sharp with female learners bearing the brunt the most.
“Rural learners have been completely left behind as they are not connected to internet for online remote learning and have no capacity to pay for the illegal but helpful extra lessons.
“There is no home schooling for the rural learner as the majority of the parents and guardians dont have capacity to deliver quality learning instructions for their children. The female learners in rural communities are also engaging in child marriages a practice that is normalised among the majority of our rural dwellers. Such learners wont come back to school when schools finally open,” said Masaraure.
A Harare based educator Philip Tsembani said while the disparities in terms of education access between learners in rural communities and in urban areas is of concern, Covid-19 imduced lock down has made it even harder for female learners.
“The call to afford female learners the same opportunities their male counterparts have been enjoying these years have gained momentum in the country but the advent of Covid-19 is dragging us back again. The more they stay at home the more they are exposed to a number of problems including indulging in sexual activities.
“When that child (female)returns to class it will not be easy for her to fully see her potential out. So naturally we go back to default settings.”