For Mukudzei Madzivire, the Junior President of Zimbabwe the recently launched digital learning platform, Learning Passport will transform education in Zimbabwe and beyond.
Originally designed to provide education for displaced and refugee children through a digital remote learning platform, the Learning Passport - a collaboration between UNICEF and Microsoft with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in Zimbabwe, is expanding to more countries and offers country-level curriculum for children and youth.
"When the initial lockdown was announced, I didn't expect it to last long. I thought after two weeks, everything would go back to normal and I would go back to school. As time progressed, I realised this wasn't going to be the case and at this time online learning was not available to a lot of students in the country," Mukudzei said.
"In most cases, textbooks are not availed by the school and without textbooks, even students that intended to continue studying independently could not do so," he added.
The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected the learning of millions of children around the world including 4.6 million children in Zimbabwe. When the COVID-19 virus began to spread in the country in March 2020, forcing the country into a nationwide lockdown no one knew how long it would last or the impact it would have on childhoods worldwide.
If young people are on the move, their education should be on the move with them
In a response to the challenges, children like Mukudzei and others around the world faced, UNICEF and Microsoft came together to develop the Learning Passport to enable continuous access to education for children and young people. Zimbabwe is the first country in Africa to launch the Learning Passport.
The Learning Passport is an innovative solution that will allow students, teachers, parents and caregivers to access their school curriculum, their materials, multiple resources, online activities and develop different life skills.
Kate Behncken, Vice President and Lead of Microsoft Philanthropies explained the idea behind the Learning passport: "If young people are on the move, their education should be on the move with them. This creates an opportunity for young people to continue with their studies regardless of their location, or where they are on their education journey."
On Thursday, March 11, 2021, The Ministry of Primary and secondary Education, Microsoft and UNICEF officially launched the Learning passport in Zimbabwe with a goal of reaching 300,000 learners this year.
The Learning Passport will offer simple, easy and fun ways to learn. Through tailor-made programs online, offline and mobile access the tool can reach the most vulnerable learners allowing children to learn at their own pace.
Speaking at the launch Hon Cain Mathema, the Minister of Primary and secondary education said, "The Learning Passport will help in Government's efforts to ensure, no learner is left behind especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"This platform will impact a whole generation in Zimbabwe who could be left behind with schools being closed and access to learning disrupted," he said.
UNICEF Director, Henrietta H. Fore reiterated the importance of collaboration to further the interest of every child, "The Learning Passport is a great example of what we can achieve by working in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe as it pursues its national development strategy; and with innovative companies, like Microsoft."
The Learning Passport is a great example of what we can achieve by working in partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe as it pursues its national development strategy; and with innovative companies, like Microsoft.
The Learning Passport launch comes a year after Zimbabwe recorded its first COVID-19 with learners having a disrupted academic year.
The Minister of ICT Postal & Courier Services, Mr Jenfan Muswere urged learners to take advantage of the opportunity presented by the learning passport: "I encourage parents, schools and all students to make use of the learning passport", he said.
Laylee Moshiri, UNICEF Zimbabwe Representative was ecstatic that Zimbabwe among the first countries to launch the initiative.
"It is a new solution designed to close the learning gap - a tech platform enabling high quality, flexible learning," said Laylee Moshiri, UNICEF Zimbabwe Representative. "The Learning Passport is a key innovation meant to enhance learning pathways while providing critical continuous access to quality education," she said.
Mukudzei knows only too well what this means for his peers as UNICEF works closely with many partners in government and the telecommunications sector to promote and make the platform more accessible for the most marginalized children.
"The Learning Passport will allow us to access learning resources free of charge in various formats and will help further our education. Within the Learning Passport all kind of learners are catered for unlike the traditional style of learning," he said.
Among those happy with the introduction of the Learning passport was Faith Nyathi, a teacher at Oasis ECD and Primary school who said: "The Learning Passport will improve student-centred learning. Each child learns differently and now we will be able to assist each learner and track their learning progress through the learning passport"
While the Learning Passport hosts a digital library of teaching and learning resources covering the entire primary and secondary education curriculum, it also comes with different life skill courses for young people. Visit mopsezw.learningpassport.unicef.org and start exploring the learning passport today.