THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL COMPUTER LITERACY FOR ZIMBABWEAN TEACHERS
Transforming Education through Digital Computer Literacy
THE IMPACT OF DIGITAL COMPUTER LITERACY FOR ZIMBABWEAN TEACHERS
By Eng. T.D Nyarufuka, Masvingo
April 2, 2019
The impact of Digital Computer Literacy for Teachers in Zimbabwean Education.
The use of ICTs (Information and Communication Technologies) as characterized by Digital Computer Literacy in Zimbabwe’s education system in schools and colleges is of paramount importance. The teachers have a dual role to play that is teaching/learning through ICTs and also learning how to teach through them. Interestingly, the rate at which schools have embraced the use of ICTs is unprecedented, but this has not been matched with an equal effort by teacher education colleges and hence teacher trainees have been less exposed and trained in using such technologies in different schools around the nation at large. Evidently, this has created a mismatch between the need for teachers who are conversant with ICTs and e-learning and their availability. It reflects on efforts made to integrate ICTs into the teacher education curriculum and evaluates the impact that this programme will have on teacher education in Zimbabwe.
The impact of Digital Computer Literacy is positively witnessed by the Zimbabwean government which adopted a national ICT policy in 2005 that was informed both by a Harvard University-guided e-readiness survey, which suggested the country was not uniformly e-ready, and by a host of preceding general and sectoral policies including Vision 2020, the National Science and Technology Policy adopted in 2002, and the Nziramasanga Education Commission (CEIT) Report which in 1999 recommended the promotion of the educational use of computers for teaching and learning in educational institutions. The policy’s vision was to transform Zimbabwe into a knowledge-based society by 2020, while its mission was to accelerate the development and application of ICTs in support of economic growth and development. The policy’s objectives are to promote the development of ICT infrastructure, provide education and training programmes to produce knowledge workers and qualified human resources, to establish relevant structures and institutional mechanisms to promote ICTs, and to encourage equitable access to ICTs across genders and to youth, the elderly, and people with disabilities. It also has a separate section on human resource development where it promotes skills training and capacity-building at all levels in the private and public sectors and in all training centres and institutions of learning.
In Zimbabwe’s education system, the impact of Digital Computer Literacy is evidenced by the current ICT Initiatives and Projects across the nation which includes African Virtual University (AVU) Teacher Education Project. The intention is to contribute to the growth of more and better-quality teachers through the use of flexible Digital Computer Literacy, Open Distance, and e-Learning (ODeL) methodologies at an affordable cost for diploma, undergraduate, and graduate levels. The specific objectives of the project are to enhance the capacity of teachers in the use of ICTs in teaching and learning of mathematics and science, to develop the capacity of teachers to deliver ICTs as a subject in secondary education, and to increase the number of mathematics and science teachers by expanding access to training through ODeL methods there by showing the positive impact of Digital Computer Literacy in the Zimbabwean Education sector.
It has also been observed that the impact of Digital Computer Literacy in the Zimbabwe’s education system is positively evidenced by the intervention of other external Organizations in promoting the ICT projects. World Links Zimbabwe is part of the international network of World Links organization and has historically been a pioneer in the promotion of education through ICTs and Digital Computer Literacy. The organization has been active in Zimbabwe since mid-1999 when 12 ICT centres were established with the support of the World Bank and in partnership with the Ministry of Education Sport and Culture before the amendments of ministries due to domestic political policies. Each of these pilot World Links centres were established near schools so that they could service both the schools and the community. In this sense World Links Zimbabwe pioneered the concept of school-based Digital Computer Literacy and tele-centres. World Links Zimbabwe was also known for its introduction of a bus, known as the Big Blue, installed with computers supplied by groups such as Computers for African Schools based in the UK. The bus moves to remote rural areas to encourage access to ICTs by these communities.
The National ICT policy that was adopted in 2005 makes significant references to the promotion of ICTs and Digital Computer Literacy in education including their pedagogical use in educational institutions as noted by Isaacs, (2007). President’s office also launched a campaign to provide most schools with computer related equipment. This resulted in most schools (including schools in the remote areas of the country) and universities benefitting and thus enable them to utilize ICTs in the teaching and learning process, although an audit still needs to be carried out to ascertain how far the equipment has been put to good use. However, this campaign created a mismatch in the provision of IT resources. It is the extreme ends of the education sector that were capacitated leaving middle but essential departments, particularly Teacher Education Colleges, as well as Polytechnic Colleges not catered for. Teacher Education Colleges were the worst hit, since they are essentially a service sector that also cannot raise any extra income to help themselves survive. It is precisely for this reason that a non-governmental organization, VVOB5 (Vlaamse Vereniging Voor Ontwikkelingssamenwerking en Technische Bijstand), carried out a needs analysis survey and identified a gap in the use of ICTs in teaching and learning at Teacher Education Colleges and Polytechnics in Zimbabwe, which it decided to roll out a programme that came to be known as the CITEP (College IT (information technology) Enhancement Programme).
In trying to harness the Digital Computer Literacy in the Zimbabwean Education system, the government conducted College Information Technology Enhancement Programme (CITEP) targeting school teachers in the computer literacy in the education sector hence teacher education learners have a significant role to play in the sustained application of ICT in schools. Therefore, it is imperative that they are exposed to effective use of ICT in their training. By integrating ICT as a learning resource during regular classes, lecturers are exposing learners to innovative ways of learning. Teacher training programs need to effectively train their prospective teachers in using different ICT materials for lessons and also to be able to direct and have learners effectively benefit from such materials. The integration of ICTs in the Zimbabwe teacher education curriculum was achieved through the CITEP6. VVOB identified a needs gap in the integration of ICTs in Teacher Education Colleges in promoting Digital Computer Literacy in the education sector.
In the Zimbabwean education sector, Digital Computer Literacy is being positively impacted by the development of staff in the field of ICT in education system. Interestingly, the CITEP programme focused on the use of ICTs in teaching and learning and the programme set up server computers for local mail, sharing files online and for MOODLE10 e-learning platform. ITC unit members for each college conducted staff development workshops for college lecturers on sharing network resources, using local mail, designing and running eLearning courses. The training workshops were standardized so as to allow the sharing of ideas and transfer of personnel across the colleges. It was hoped that once trained, the lecturers would make use of ICT skills in their teaching methodologies and also cascade the same skills to learners in their respective departments. The MOODLE platform was also intended to allow lecturers to deliver tuition to learner teachers who were in the field on teaching practice. Interestingly, the CITEP programme was instituted at a time when the DTE at the University of Zimbabwe had unveiled a policy in which IT education was made mandatory for every learner at a teacher education college. DTE clearly spelt out that it would not certify any learner who had not passed the ICT course. Luckily, the policy came into effect in 2007 when the colleges had already been capacitated to offer courses in ICTs in education as well as using such technologies in the delivery of the teacher education curriculum.
The CITEP programme proved to be a worthwhile intervention for participating teacher education colleges as far as Digital Computer Literacy as concerned. The most important benefit of the programme was that it ensured that colleges were found ready in compliance with the new DTE regulation that made the use of ICTs and the development of ICT skills in learners mandatory. Secondly, there has been a marked increase in the demand and use of ICT facilities in all the three secondary teacher training colleges. This can be interpreted as success of the staff development programme as well as a result of efficient cascading of Digital Computer Literacy knowledge and skills to college learners and school learners. Thus, college administrators have had to keep up with the demand of ICT facilities by efficiently maintaining the existing facilities and at times improving on accessibility and availability.
In conclusion, the Digital Computer Literacy for teachers in Zimbabwe is positively impacted in the Education system through a series of programmes and projects initiated under governmental and non-governmental organizations intervening in Zimbabwe’s education system as witnessed by the above analysis. Therefore, there should be a shift from an emphasis on “education for ICT” to the use of “ICT for education So it might be fair to note that still there is need to attend in Digital Computer Literacy since not all teachers are computer literate while the new syllabus advocates the significance of computer literacy in the education sector for both primary and secondary schools while backed by the leadership of Zimbabwean government and civil society organizations have demonstrated an enthusiasm and positive response to Digital Computer Literacy in the education sector. However, both aspects are lacking in Zimbabwe’s teacher education curriculum, as these are yet to be incorporated. No integration model or framework was employed. Indeed, the belief was that once adequate hardware and software resources were made available, integration would be a success. Eventually, Digital Computer Literacy can be presented as a subject with particular knowledge, skills and concepts and as a tool to support learning in other curriculum subjects.
Eng. T.D Nyarufuka.
Education and ICT Writer
This article was published by the Great Zimbabwe University Publications, Masvingo © 2019