■ Sinikiwe Marodza
Harare Southern Africa and the world at large was forced to close schools among other things so as to curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.
However, although closing schools was a great move, it has left most students vulnerable especially those who are set to sit for their finals this year.
Since education has been affected by the lockdown, as students are unable to go back to school, e-learning seems to be the only available solution for learners to go on with their studies. Unfortunately in countries like Zimbabwe, not every child can afford the internet as the data tariffs are not affordable to many.
There have been concerns over high data prices in Zimbabwe. As a result, many students are unable to take part in e-learning, hence the need for a review in the data prizes.
It is against this background that Zimbabwean government took an initiative to approach all mobile operators and held talks on reviewing data prizes.
The data prices are within the approved Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ), but are beyond many ordinary citizens, let alone students.
In Zimbabwe the cheapest data bundle is going for $1 bond note which is 3.8 MB, which means a student will need more than $15 bond a day to partake in e-learning.
Secretary for Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier Services in Zimbabwe Engineer Sam Kundishora, last week said the Zimbabwean Government sympathises with the students.
“Learners must continue, but we are also concerned about the cost of access,” he said.
“The cost of access means the learners have to pay in order to access the Internet and the data bundles are not cheap.
“What we are trying to do right now is to discuss with the regulator and the operators so that we can at least come up with a reduction, if possible, of the cost of data bundles.
“So, according to the regulator, it’s still within the range, so there is nothing that has increased in terms of tariffs from the regulator side. However, after saying that, it means that the consumer is still feeling that increase and this is what we are negotiating now at the moment to see whether the operators can reduce on the cost for data bundles.”
Most Schools and tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe have already complied with the directive and introduced online lectures for students through its e-learning platforms, although most students are still finding it hard to access classes due to the expensive data prizes.
Most countries within the SADC region seem to have adapted well to the e-learning system.
Apart from using computers and the internet students are accessing information through other channels.
In countries like South Africa, the ministry of education has partnered with the South African Broadcasting Corporations (SABC), in Botswana the ministry is working with Botswana TV, In Angola the government is working with Tele Aulas- and they are giving classes to students of all grades, especially exam classes.