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ICT in schools: Elephant in the room

NJUKA

DEXTER NJUKA
WRITING the article you are just reading was made possible by one of the pupils here where I do chaplaincy.
I have had issues with my power pack and for some time and had been using ones with wrong peripherals as I look for the exact replacement.
After the trade fair holiday, this grade nine pupil came with her laptop which uses the exact power pack as mine.
Not being clear of what would become of this article, I realised that I could write on why this child came to a boarding school with a laptop when the school prohibited pupils from coming with such gadgets.
With ICT being integrated into the school curriculum as a subject, I am as much enthusiastic as to see how this rule will be upheld. It’s undeniable that as much as ICT came to stay, it poses an insurmountable challenge to the Ministry of Education and the schools at large on how this subject is being implemented.
Maybe the ministry should have just launched the theory part until at such a time when computer labs are established in schools for the practical part.
How will children write their first ICT exams when it comes to the practical paper? With massive load shedding countrywide this year and ICT exams to roll for the first time, aren’t those two amounting to a gigantic elephant in the room?
Is the Ministry of Education being proactive about the impending lot? What about the schools without electricity, save a fragile security system? Will pupils in the near future be required to provide their own computers or laptops or tablets as one of the school requirements so as to save the government from expending colossal sums on equipment and laboratories?
And if so, how would the pupils afford to have their own? If not properly handled, ICT will cause an examination catastrophe that we have never encountered before as a nation.
A friend teaching at a government school shared with me how challenging it has been for her to implement the practical part of this subject. In the first place, she is the only one trained to teach this subject and secondly, there was only one computer in the entire school to use for teaching.
Just teaching on how to move the cursor took forever for each and every pupil’s turn to come and when it was brought, the others had already forgotten.
At my institution, thieves broke in and stole the computers for ICT lessons. It’s also undeniable that computers being costly pose not only as a security challenge but as an economic challenge too. This will require tightening on security and maybe build laboratories that will be more like strong rooms.
Our members of Parliament can also come in. I was impressed to watch on ZNBC TV1, when Foreign Affairs minister Harry Kalaba donated computers to some basic schools in his constituency towards the ICT-in-schools plan.
Our legislators can for now channel their Constituency Development Funds or part of it towards this and better still come up with mobile computer laboratories that can be revolving weekly to the schools in their constituencies.
In fact mobile computer labs, if well-built especially in consultation with Zambia Information Communication Technology Authority can prove cheaper as they can operate on batteries and invertors and out of harm’s way as these vans can easily be parked at police stations.
Tablets and notebooks may seem ideal in terms of electricity issues but very expensive a route to take. Otherwise this ICT ‘beast’ is here with us. In this world of internet of things, not even our children should lag behind, lest posterity judges us harshly.
It is folly for the private sector or individuals to watch from a distance or be indifferent towards this challenge.
As individuals we can let the schools within our vicinity use our notebooks so that they do some catch up. In places where schools don’t have a teacher in ICT, we can volunteer to assist in tutoring these beautiful children.
If you happen to visit your home village for a weekend and you have a laptop, carry it along. When those kids gather about during story time you can instead teach them a few basics about a computer. I bet you will do the president, the country and the future some pride.
The author is chaplain for Mupapa Secondary School for the Seventh-Day Adventists in Copperbelt.

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