VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka
EDUCATION has been key to Zambia’s development process since the country attained political independence in 1964.
The Ministry of General Education has been directing a lot of resources and expertise into establishing effective systems and policies that will have a positive impact on students and learning outcomes.
The Vision 2030 initiative was established in 2012 as a policy framework for overall development in Zambia.
Among its primary goals is the creation of a knowledge-based society. The document calls for “accelerating development efforts towards Vision 2030, without leaving anyone behind”.
The key outcomes of this ambitious plan include economic diversification and job creation, reduction of poverty and vulnerability, reduced developmental inequalities, enhanced human development and the creation of a conducive governance environment.
The Vision 2030 also calls for a strong general education base in science and technology, delivery of a flexible curriculum that takes into account new teaching methodologies.
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) is an important part of this process of national development.
Government has dedicated a lot of expenditure towards education as it currently occupies around K11.6 billion of the K71.6 billion of the national budget.
To this end, Government developed the ICT policy that aims to ensure children learn ICTs from primary to tertiary level.
The move saw the introduction of ICT lessons in schools by the Ministry of General Education following the revision of the school curriculum.
The initial implementation of the programme was characterised by a lot of challenges in many learning institutions across the country.
For example, not all schools in the country have access to electricity, while others have no computers to facilitate ICT lessons.
Three years down the line in the implementation of ICTs in schools, Government is recording steady progress.
Ministry of General Education Permanent Secretary Felix Phiri said learners are being taught the theory part of ICTs in all the schools countrywide.
However, learners with access to computers and other ICT devices are also able do the practical part of the subjects. This means that pupils in schools without computers and ICT devices are not able to do the practical part.
“The learners who have access to computers are also being examined, while the ones without access to computers and other requirements are not being subjected to examinations,” Dr Phiri said.
According to the Ministry of General Education, children who master the theory part of ICTs find it easy to do the practical part when they come across computers and other required devices.
“If children start learning ICTs early, we are sure of developing the country because of the advancement in technology which makes it possible,” Dr Phiri said.
Government has also intensified the training of teachers in ICTs. “Currently, we have 1,000 teachers at the Ndola ICT College. The training is being done in collaboration with the University of Zambia,” Dr Phiri said.
With the support from SMART Zambia, over 150 schools countrywide will be equipped with ICT devices to facilitate the teaching of ICT subjects.
However, Zambia Union of Teachers (ZNUT) National general secretary Newman Bubala, who supports the introduction of ICT subjects in schools, says the idea is a good one but stresses that both learners and teachers need to be equipped with the necessary tools to allow for smooth implementation of the revised school curriculum.
Mr Bubala said on the part of teachers, the main challenge has been the lack of ICT skills required to teach children in schools .
“We are hoping Government will be off-loading trained teachers in ICT very soon because we are told some teachers are being trained,” Mr Bubala said.
On the part of learners, he said they face unique needs and challenges based on their geographical location such as urban, peri-urban and rural areas.
According to Mr Bubala, urban learners have access to computers and are better positioned in terms of access to the necessary tools unlike their colleagues in peri-urban and rural areas.
“We are appealling to Government to start the modernisation process of rural schools to ensure that every child has access to ICT facilities. Failure to do so will disadvantage the learners in peri-urban and rural areas,” Mr Bubala said.
He noted with pleasure that some schools in urban areas have been receiving donations of computers from firms and non-governmental organisations, and this has helped to facilitate learning.
ZNUT’s sentiments were echoed by Basic Teachers Union of Zambia (BETUZ)’s Jeffery Simunthala.
Mr Simunthala said there has been steady progress in the implementation of ICTs in schools but a lot still needs to be done.
He said Government needs to electrify some peri-urban and rural areas to enable children from these areas to do the practical part of ICTs.
“The implementation of ICTs in schools will play a vital role in society and contribute greatly to Zambia’s socio-economic development because we need to use technology for meaningful development to take place,” Mr Simunthala said.
VIOLET MENGO, Lusaka