What is eLearning? eLearning is so wide and encompassing that its hard to clearly definition that actually does the term justice. For the purpose of this article we will define eLearning as education utilizing electronic technologies to access educational syllabus outside of a traditional classroom. In most cases, it refers to a course, program or degree delivered completely online.
Last year Econet Wireless Zimbabwe launched a digital learning platform called Ruzivo Digital Learning. The online interactive digital learning platform was targeted at both primary and secondary students and to complements the government’s efforts to provide education resources to help improve the pass rate. Ruzivo Digital Learning was and is a noble idea from Econet.
Ruzivo contains “locally developed digitalised academic content” including interactive lessons, exercises and tests. The packages can be used both in the classroom for lessons and at home for revisions and once a child gets started, Ruzivo will keep his or her progress in all exercises and tests.
Since the launch a lot has happened to Ruzivo platform and Econet seemed to have pivoted since February. First the Platform was going to be for both primary and secondary. As of this writing the Platform is only targeting primary school kids. Targeting primary school kids would have been great but they is a lot of work to be done there. Switching from traditional classroom and face to face teacher training to computer-based training in a virtual classroom makes the learning understanding entirely different for students. Event thought Econet through their Higher Life arm have placed teachers in some schools, this seems to help.
The resistance to change by both Teachers and students doesn’t allow them to adapt to the online learning atmosphere. Teachers fear of losing their jobs to AI. And for the students it takes time for them to familiarize to Course Management Systems (CMS) and the methods of computer-based education. While passive listening and notes taking are expected in a traditional classroom, creating a web page demand springing into action. Students with a “traditional” mindset find it difficult to adjust; however, they need to accept the new learning conditions with an open mind and heart.
But the challenges I have highlighted above are normal to any change be it a company or country. Right now Zimbabweans are having trouble accepting that we are going to be using Bond notes in two months’ time.
The Elephant in Ruzivo right now is the lack of local Languages. Ruzivo Digital Learning has no local languages that is Shona and Ndebele. We cannot give reason that the lack of Shona or Ndebele is because of lack of teachers. We have many graduates who can help. There is a rumor doing rounds that during last holidays (April). Ruzivo had organized for teachers from a local school at add Shona and Ndebele but they were stopped by the Ministry. They teacher were stopped just a day before they were to start. The Ministry argued that the teachers belonged to them and Ruzivo should first seek permission from them first. We have tried to get comment from both Econet and the Ministry but no one seems to be willing to talk about the issue. So we had to point to the Elephant in the room.
Our government, like other Governments made English an official national language. Their motivation behind this is to grow our economy and improve the career prospects of their younger generations. However, our research findings consistently show that learners benefit from learning their home language in education in early grade years .Yet, Ruzivo has not done any “effort” in trying to add these languages.
A crucial learning aim in the early years of education is the development of basic literacy skills: reading, writing and arithmetic. The not adding of Shona or Ndebele will limit the Kids skills in learning these languages. Essentially, the skills of reading and writing come down to the ability to comrade the sounds of a language with the letters or symbols used in the written form. These skills build on the introductory and interactional skills of speaking and listening. Adding Shona and Ndebele help them to develop reading and writing skills faster and in a more meaningful way. One useful reading skill is the ability to guess the meaning of unfamiliar words from context. Another one is the ability to decide which new words in a text are vital to look up in the dictionary and which words can safely be ignored.
We have proof that shows that many skills acquired in the Shona language can be transferred to the second language. So, for example, if your child has developed good reading skills in Shona, she is likely to be able to apply these skills when reading English.
Government introduced the new curriculum in 2016 to balance academics and vocational technical training.
The document was crafted around the recommended around recommendations of the 1999 Commission of Inquiry into Education and Training which was headed by Professor Caiphas Nziramasanga, with input from a cross-section of stakeholders.
Part of the Commission’s report reads, “There is need for language policy that is clear and explicit. . .Indigenous languages facilitate participation by all in the process of development. Throughout the colonial era, indigenous languages were denigrated.”
Not adding Shona or Ndebele, will create a Shonaphobia in the kids mind. We strongly edge Econet, Ruzivo to Add these Languages to their platforms.