The Sunday News
Judith Phiri, Sunday News Reporter
GOVERNMENT says it will continue to acquire more servers and buy close to 1 000 laptops for colleges as efforts to intensify its commitment to ensuring a safe online learning environment.
This comes after government secured five high tech servers worth millions of dollars last year to catalyse online learning across the country’s learning institutions.
The servers which are meant to provide e-learning and collaborative learning at higher and tertiary education institutions in the country were given to the University of Zimbabwe, Midlands State University, Harare Institute of Technology, National University of Science of Technology and Great Zimbabwe University.
Despite being located at the five institutions, the servers service all tertiary institutions in the country.
In an interview, the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, Innovation, Science and Technology Development Professor Amon Murwira, said Government remains committed to the provision of quality education through digital transformation, hence more servers and laptops for colleges were to be acquired this year.
“Last year five tertiary institutions received servers which are serving all other tertiary institutions in the country as they work as a cloud in coordination. This year we will be increasing these as each university with an allocation of ZWL$ 20 million from the 2021 National Budget for ICTs equipment will be able to buy more.
“What we also have done is that we have given out a tender to supply colleges with close to 1 000 laptops for colleges’ lecturers to use because as you know colleges are different from universities in terms of budget,” said Prof Murwira.
He added that the Ministry last year assisted the universities with servers because they had the technical capability to serve other institutions.
Prof Murwira also noted that their plan which was already in progress was to roll out developed software to other tertiary institutions, such as at UZ where they have got an e-learning management system, and it was supposed to serve those colleges as well.
“Our main ambitious is to buy some more servers spares so that we are able to serve all tertiary institutions that might even include private ones because students are Zimbabweans. As Zimbabwe moves to modernise and industrialise, Government has configured higher and tertiary education system from 3.0 to 5.0 compliant,” added the Minister.
Prof Murwira highlighted that their policy as a Ministry was to use every means possible to serve the students and make sure that to the best of their ability they finish on time.
He noted that students were on track and bound to finish their academic year on time as they were utilising even months that used to be holiday on the academic calendar.
“Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, on the academic calendar June and July were holiday, but last year we did not use them as holiday we went back to school in order to cover up for the time that we had lost between March and May.
“Also, before January and February universities would be open as yet and universities used to open normally towards the end of February and beginning of March, but as we saw this year, we are covering up the time with e-learning so we cannot complain about not finishing on time,” said Prof Murwira.
The Minister noted that the year was still full and as was done last year, holidays will be used to cover for the lost time through blended learning so that students graduate towards the end of the year.
“So far we have succeeded so there is no reason for failing to finish on time this year. An education should lead through making sure that although we have obstacles, we circumvent them and the methods are through blended learning. Our actions are geared towards defeating Covid-19 and the consequences of it on education through blended learning, hence there is need to expand our e-learning capabilities and by using innovative methods we will make sure that students will be able to finish their degrees on time,” added Prof Murwira.
In the 2021 Budget the Ministry of Higher & Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development was given a provision of ZWL$14.4 billion, of which ZWL$4.3 billion is for infrastructure development.
Government also said all higher and tertiary education programmes shall be made Education 5.0 compliant during the Strategy Period.
Meanwhile, a number of tertiary institutions and universities are actively involved in the production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs) and sanitisers, with others showing potential to produce at commercially viable levels, amidst the Covid-19 pandemic.