GOVERNMENT’S efforts to offer online and radio lessons to schoolchildren stranded at home due to the COVID-19 lockdown, which forced schools to remain closed, has been challenged by non-governmental organisations. BY BLESSED MHLANGA The lobby groups say the online and radio project was too elitist and discriminated against others who come from poor backgrounds or areas with no internet connectivity. Every Child in School-ECIS campaign led by Tag a Life International (TaLI) and supported by Zimbabwe National Council for the Welfare of Children (ZNCWC), Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (Ecozi), Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) have since petitioned Parliament to ensure that the intervention by the Primary and Secondary Education ministry does not discriminate other children from poor backgrounds and remote areas. “There is now an attempt by the Ministry of Education to ensure that children’s learning is undisrupted and continues, this move is commendable, but as Every Child in School-ECIS campaign, led by Tag a Life International (TaLI) and supported by ZNCWC, Ecozi, WCoZ and children and civil society groups in Zimbabwe, we have noted some gaps which need urgent attention,” TaLI said in a statement soon after delivering a petition to Parliament.. TaLI said provision of lessons through radio and TV would exclude communities in Zimbabwe where there is no radio signal, those who cannot afford to purchase radio and TV sets, thereby falling far short of the constitutional provisions on non-discrimination. “Lessons for children, through radio while noble, leave out more than 80%,” TaLI said. “Of the population of learners, some cannot afford the radio sets, some do not even have the radio signal and others are struggling owing to power shortages. “Areas like Gwanda, Beitbridge, Kwekwe and parts of Manicaland do not receive ZBC radio signal, which means close to 40% of our communities who have no access to radio signal will be left out. “The radio classrooms also leave out another population, namely those in our society who cannot hear and those who need special attention, the disability groups.” This came at a time government had insisted that examination schedules would proceed uninterrupted, while the plan to reopen schools remains a puzzle not only for parents, but teachers and school heads as well. TaLI called on Parliament to excise its oversight role. “Education must be available to all, not one child must be left behind, it is with this in mind that we have approached, the Parliament of Zimbabwe with a petition to ensure government is forced to provide solutions that provide education to everyone,” TaLI said.
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