Manicaland challenges govt over schools internet “talk show”

By Kenneth Matimaire

MUTARE – Villagers in most parts of the
eastern border province have criticized government over its continued tendency
of making false promises regarding WiFi internet services connections in
primary and secondary schools.

Government revealed that it had unlocked
funds to install internet services at the country’s 8,500 primary and secondary
schools.

The ground breaking ceremonies were jointly held mid-last year by the Ministry of Information Communication Technology (ICT) and Cyber security, and Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education.

However, a snap survey conducted by
Radio VOP within urban and rural schools in Manicaland province indicated
otherwise.

“We are yet to have the privilege of
receiving such (internet connection) services here. I can assure you that no
such development or talks of that nature have surfaced here,” said a teacher at
Mkwada Primary School who requested anonymity.

Radio VOP established that most schools,
especially in the remote areas had no such connections while some urban schools
have made internal efforts to install WiFi services.

“Ours schools have no internet services
here, government should honour up to its promises,” charged Headman Mkwada of
Marange.

Dora Ward 5 councillor Tonderai Gopito recently
told Radio VOP that there are no WiFi connections at the three schools under
his ward.

“There are three schools here, two
primaries and one secondary school under Ward 5. All of them have no internet
connections let alone computers,” he said.

“We are tired of government talk shows,
they always promise things that they cannot do. Hold fancy ceremonies in
expensive hotels and lie to us. We were told that all rural schools will get
internet but we are still waiting,” said Fiona Zambuko of Nyanga South.

Primary and Secondary Education minister
Paul Mavima said the programme is expected to be complete within the next five
years with over $30 million required.

Mavima said government has partnered a
private company e-Learning Solutions and two parastatals TelOne Zimbabwe and
the Zimbabwe Academic and Research Network (ZARNet) to roll out the exercise.

ZARNet operates within the ministry of
ICT, which is jointly spearheading the project.

“We have potentially unlocked
internet connectivity for the 8,500 schools we have. We don’t want to be over
ambitious because the work will be based on capacity and issues to do with
electricity but our intention is to unlock internet to all schools. So we have
to work with REA for electricity coverage.

“A big percentage will be done
within three to five years but the 1,300 schools under ZARNet will be done
within a year. But if we combine all the three companies we will cover 3,000
schools within a year.” he said.

Mavima said ZARNet has already received
funding under the Universal Services Fund administered by the ICT ministry.

He further indicated that $10 million
will be sourced for the initial stages while an additional $30 million will be
raised by the contracted companies.

The internet project complements the
Schools National Computerisation Programme launched in 2000 and the National
e-Learning Programme launched in 2012 by former President Robert Mugabe.

Since then, thousands of schools have
received 10 computers each under the programme.

However, most of the donated computers
are now either mal-functioning or out of use.

Once operational the e-learning platform
will enable live streaming of lessons, allow the ministry to warehouse all
education data in central servers accessible to connected schools.

Issues to do with real time
administration and management of schools will be made easier as parents will
also be able to access school attendance registers to check whether their
children have not absconded.