UNIVERSITIES will continue with online learning during the implementation of tightened lockdown Level Four where the majority of members of the public are supposed to stay at home to reduce the spread of Covid-19.
Following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic last year, the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development adopted blended learning — a combination of face-to-face lectures and online learning.
Government on Saturday imposed Level Four tightened national lockdown following a spike in Covid-19 infections during the festive season.
The measures entail that non essential services employees should stay at home and some businesses and informal sector players closed shop yesterday for at least 30 days.
Some of the Covid-19 containment measures include banning of social gatherings such as churches, indefinitely deferring schools opening while closing land borders which will only admit returning residents who produce Covid-19 certificates obtained within 48 hours.
The public have been warned that partaking in outdoor activities should be treated as a matter of life and death.
Most of the country’s Covid-19 cases are due to local transmissions raising concerns that the pandemic could be deep in communities.
Most universities were scheduled to reopen on Monday including physical face-to-face tutorials but the new Covid-19 restrictions saw institutions suspending their programmes and remaining with virtual learning.
The National University of Science and Technology (Nust) is one of the institutions that had to adjust its calendar after previously announcing that part of on campus learning was commencing on Monday.
In an interview yesterday, Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira said in view of increase in Covid-19 cases and tightened lockdown measures, his Ministry will continue to use available options to ensure that learning does not stop.
“Online learning is continuing in higher and tertiary institutions. As a Ministry we are always trying to make sure that learning is not disturbed.
“We have actually bought five high end servers for all higher and tertiary education institutions as a shared resource and we’re expecting to buy five more this year.
“This is done to ensure that we have a cloud which is more reliable and at the same time it is very important to note that we are in the new normal and no matter what difficulty we meet we have to overcome it,” said Prof Murwira.
He said Government was not blind to the fact that online learning comes with access challenges, especially to those who lack financial resources.
“We progressively try to make sure that we are as inclusive as possible. We want to solve problems of those who are struggling with access. But we can’t stop because there are challenges, we will continue while we are improving.
“It’s almost like we are making a road, while we make the rehabilitations others are inconvenienced for a moment but we will continue to make it convenient for everyone,” he said.
“When we are doing e-learning, it’s basically a strategy to improve access to education. It’s not the reversal of access to learning. For example at the University of Zimbabwe, I know that students contributed to the pooled data, I don’t know how far they have gone with that but it’s also part of the progress that we have made and with the possibility of combined effort we are able to overcome challenges as we implement online learning.” — @nqotshili