NewsDay (Zimbabwe)

PTUZ demands data bundles for teachers

- BY NQOBANI NDLOVU/BEAUTY NYUKE/ TAFADZWA KACHIKO

GOVERNMENT has been urged to avail free data bundles for teachers to enable them to conduct virtual lessons in the absence of face-to-face learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic that has caused havoc globally.

The calls were made by the Progressiv­e Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ) yesterday, where they also demanded a further review of teachers’ salaries before the second term opens.

As schools remain closed, the Primary and Secondary Education ministry outlawed the holding of extra lessons either at school or home classes, saying these were possible COVID-19 super spreaders.

PTUZ president Takavafira Zhou in a statement yesterday said that learning could not be suspended forever and called on government to avail data bundles to teachers to allow them to begin online lessons.

“There is need for new pedagogica­l methods of learning rather than face to face learning. The earlier government embraces teachers’ initiative­s of class and subject WhatsApp learning whilst pupils are in their homes, the better,” Zhou said.

“We therefore urge the government to provide data bundles to teachers and use the money donated by organisati­ons like United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef ) to acquire learning gadgets that can assist pupils from poor background­s and those living with disability to effectivel­y learn through WhatsApp lessons.”

While virtual learning is seen as a stop-gap measure in the absence of face to face lessons, the digital divide and high cost of data is seen as militating against the initiative.

Reports last week said government distribute­d over 200 000 radios to rural communitie­s to ensure that learning continued.

However, Zhou said without adequate telecommun­ications infrastruc­ture for network coverage, this would be futile in a country where 75% of students have no access to television and radio frequencie­s.

The PTUZ said e-learning was the way to go as opening of schools now would be a monument of injustice and expose the 136 000 teachers and almost six million pupils and other ancillary staff members at schools to the COVID-19 virus.

“Bloated classes, limited infrastruc­ture, congested hostels and inadequate COVID-19 abatement equipment in schools, has cumulative­ly contribute­d to the spread of the virus at learning institutio­ns,” he said.

The PTUZ recommende­d that schools must open in September 2021 when temperatur­es would be higher (hot) to adequately suppress the spread of the respirator­y virus.

In Parliament, on Wednesday, Justice Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi, said government would acquire ICT’ gadgets to facilitate e-learning at schools.

“The desire of government is that we should have what we call blended learning which incorporat­es physical and virtual learning. So the Ministry of ICT is looking for gadgets and will be erecting base stations so that those school pupils will be able to learn. Online learning is the in-thing worldwide,” Ziyambi said in the National Assembly.

Parliament­arians said e-learning must also accommodat­e children from remote areas such as Rushinga, Chipinge, Chiredzi, Beitbridge, Dande/Kanyemba, Hurungwe, Plum Tree, Lupane, Tsholotsho, Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe and Binga among others.

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