#TechExchange: Digital Divide in Education Worrisome

Technology is supposed to be used as the bridge that narrows the gap between poor and rich schools but instead it is proving to be an instrument that is expanding the inequities.

The cruellest part of the digital divide manifests itself when you consider that some schools do not even have electricity let alone a single solar panel to power a 21 inch television set on one hand and another hand you have schools feasting on latest technology like smartboard powered by broadband.

The digital divide holds the key to the success or failure of STEM and revised curriculum. Troubling are images of students milling around wireless hot spots and crowding libraries and fast-food restaurants to use free hot spots sometimes for hours doing researches.

Educators have been talking about the digital divide a decade now. While some progress has been made in closing the gap, inequities persist in communities across the country.

The parent Ministry of education should at least put some minimum requirements for all schools like mandatory provision of offline e-learning equipment like TVs, DVDs, laptops in classes.

Digital Divide

Pirated clips of educational materials downloaded from Youtube and burnt mostly on DVDs by street vendors is what most schools without broadband have been using since it is beyond the reach of many especially those who have shortage of textbooks, classroom blocks, benches and desks.

The challenge is felt across the nation. By now students should be able to research, apply for scholarships and vacancies on net.

Teachers should be assigning students homework that requires web access where they can chat online with students who were stuck on a problem.

It is worse for university students who do not have Internet at home. Typically they require research and collaboration with classmates online. Some assignments are supposed to be due by midnight and must be submitted over the web.

That is when you see some students deciding to forgo the safety and warmth of their home to venture out to the commercial parking lot with free Wi-Fi access in order to complete and submit their assignment. Many students are simply unable to finish the work.

In developed countries they have equipped school buses with Wi-Fi routers as stop gap measures, allowing students to work on homework assignments as they travel to and from school. These school buses also serve as public study locations for students.

After bus drivers finish dropping off students, buses are conveniently parked in public spaces where students can study in a safe place close to their home.
Needed are initiatives and comprehensive strategies that can improve access to broadband at every school. School systems cannot alone solve this problem. Local elected officials, as well as the business and philanthropic community, need to play a big part to narrow the digital divide.

The world is changing and the skills that students need to thrive are changing in a digital global economy.

Shepherd Chimururi executive director – Dzidzo Inhaka Audio Visual Learning. Mobile:+263 772 608 276
 dzidzoinhaka@gmail.com www.dzidzoinhaka.co.zw

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