Zimbabwe: Zim's Digital Competence Can Match Developed Countries

23 April 2024

Teachers' digital literacy level and use of ICT in the learning process in Zimbabwe's high schools has been rated as intermediate and comparable to some developed countries, a new study shows.

This comes as President Mnangagwa, in his address at the 44th Independence Day celebrations in Murambinda, said the rollout of science, technology and innovation, as drivers of the country's modernisation and industrialisation under the Heritage Based Education 5.0 model, is yielding notable results.

The President said the training of teachers in digital skills, as part of the broader focus on re-skilling and up-skilling is being accelerated, with the country on course to ensure that all primary and secondary school learners throughout the country acquire technology and ICT-driven literacy by 2030.

And now a new study titled: "Assessment of Digital Literacy Among Secondary School Teachers in Zimbabwe", conducted by a team of local researchers with support from the Postal and Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ) and the Research Council of Zimbabwe (RCZ), indicates that the country scored three out of five, putting Zimbabwe firmly at intermediate level.

Mr Israel Dabengwa, research uptake manager at the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) and principal investigator, told stakeholders at a POTRAZ-RCZ research dissemination workshop that Zimbabwean secondary school teachers have intermediate digital literacy.

The digital skills were ranked in terms of Information and Data Literacy, Communication and Collaboration, Digital Content Creation, Problem Solving and Safety.

"At the intermediate level, it shows that our secondary teachers' proficiency levels are good. This level of proficiency means that a person can explain, perform well-defined routines, illustrate what they can do, organise and describe tasks conducted using digital tools," Mr Dabengwa said.

"Zimbabwean secondary school teachers seem to be at par with secondary school teachers from Spain and Macedonia, and above the level of Bulgaria. Our teachers can teach digital skills. They can impart the knowledge to their learners.

"This is quite a positive result for the country. We now need to build on issues we are lagging."

Researchers used the Digital Competence Framework for Citizens (DigComp), an internationally recognised tool to conduct the national assessment.

"Zimbabwe's findings are comparable with international evidence, as the Cronbach Alphas per dimension of the DigComp tool, are within acceptable margins and do not deviate from those found in published studies," Mr Dabengwa said.

Data was collected from 2 263 selected teachers from 150 secondary schools spread over 10 provinces in Zimbabwe.

The selection included private, public, boarding, day, night, urban, peri-urban, rural schools, boys only and girls only and mixed sex schools.

"An ICT facility assessment was conducted at each school, 30 in-depth interviews were held with teachers, and 15 focus group discussions with secondary school learners from each province," the principal investigator said.

"Zimbabwe's findings are comparable with international evidence, as the Cronbach Alphas per dimension of the DigComp tool, are within acceptable margins and do not deviate from those found in published studies."

Secondary education in Zimbabwe has faced some challenges of providing quality education to the student community.

However, developments in the field of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) have paved the way to new and innovative possibilities in teaching and learning.

A number of secondary schools in the country have received computers from the Government through POTRAZ, as part of efforts to promote e-learning across the country. The Ministry of Information Communication Technology, Postal and Courier

Services, through POTRAZ, commenced a programme dubbed "A Computer Laboratory for every school", where they are establishing computer laboratories fully equipped with Information Communication Technology (ICT) gadgets and internet connectivity.

More than 200 schools have been equipped with computer laboratories.

Researchers recommended that the Government should improve teachers' level of digital literacy through staff development, make ICT courses compulsory for learners, invest more in the provision of digital equipment and connectivity among several other issues. They also urged the Government to roll out various e-learning projects to schools in unserved and underserved areas in the country.

Embracing ICT is critical to improving efficiency in line with global trends and for the attainment of National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) goals.

Zimbabwe has ratcheted up efforts to promote the digital economy through the provision of ICT solutions and services across all sectors of the economy, hinged on improving access to ICTs, increasing ICT usage, improving ICT governance, and ensuring ICT industry growth.

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