THE United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in partnership with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and the Zimbabwe Schools Examination Council (ZIMSEC) has this morning launched a WhatsApp-based educational application, Dzidzo Paden|Imfundwe’ndlini.
By Michael Gwarisa
Dzidzo paden|Imfundwe’ndlini is a WhatsApp automated chatbot aimed at distributing premium academic resources to learners who have limited or no access to the internet but have access to WhatsApp. The chatbot will start by distributing curriculum-aligned academic resources (notes, past exam papers and marking schemes) for Grade 7s, Form 4s and Upper 6s.
In addition to academic materials, the App will create awareness among teachers and learners on the importance of health and hygiene, and on COVID-19 prevention through age appropriate information about coronavirus and other infectious diseases.
Work is continuing on developing academic content for all grades and forms. This easy-to-use service has the potential to reach the 5.2 million people who use WhatsApp in Zimbabwe. It will enable UNESCO to provide information directly into the hands of learners, teachers and parents.
With school closures due to COVID-19, many learners and teachers have been using WhatsApp to share information, an indication that WhatsApp is a relatively cheap and simple resource that can be capitalized to help learners access academic materials. Dzidzo Paden|Imfundwe’ndlini App came into being through partnership with 18-year-old Trueman Hama who came up with the idea.
Trueman is a Lower 6 student at St Georges College in Harare studying Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and English Language. He is an alumnus of the STAR Leadership Academy.
Commenting on the innovation, UNESCO Regional Director for Southern Africa Prof. Hubert Gijzen said utilising digital technology would ensure that learning continues even during times of pandemics such as COVID-19.
Digital technology presents a unique opportunity to serve as a medium for the transmission of educational and academic information. This way, information and knowledge can go viral and spread faster, particularly as learners are preparing for their final examinations,” he said.
Regional Office for Southern Africa According to a joint UNESCO, UNICEF, and World Bank report of October 2021, schoolchildren in low-and lower-middle-income countries have already lost nearly four months of schooling
since the start of the pandemic.
In the context of widespread school closures to slow the spread of COVID-19, UNESCO is working with the ministries of education in affected and concerned countries to ensure continued learning for all children and youth through alternative channels.