Basic Information
Name of Innovation:
Teach For Zimbabwe - Innovating rural teaching and learning using MP3
Problem:
Teach For Zimbabwe (TFZ)’s innovation provides an alternative continuous teaching and learning strategy during times when learners are absent from school during Covid-19 lockdowns or for any other reason. The MP3 players are loaded with compressed rapid content that the learner uses while at home in the event that the learner is not able to attend a physical classroom/school. The program addresses the learning lag experienced by marginalised learners who do not have access to digital gadgets they can use outside the classroom set up. These MP3s are preloaded with educational content/material based on each subject in both primary and secondary curriculum. Each student is given an MP3 player on which he/she can listen to the lessons while at home. The use of MP3 will ensure that the persistent educational inequality is reduced since any grade learner can continue to learn while herding cattle, helping with household chores, or even in the evening.In Africa, rural communities are characterized by lack of proper infrastructure, limited access to electricity, broadband and technological hardware. Covid-19 lockdowns have clearly revealed that in the absence of a physical classroom education, the rural marginalised learners have limited access to virtual learning due to lack of access to digital connectivity and gadgets needed for virtual learning. While the pandemic has impacted negatively on all the learners across the country, the majority of learners in urban areas and high-income communities have better options for accessing virtual learning in the absence of physical classes.
Description of Innovation:
The use of MP3s as a rapid learning program by TFZ is a distance teaching and learning initiative through use of low-tech learning solutions for the most marginalised and vulnerable learners. These MP3 players are light weight (less than 20 grams-the weight of a plastic pen) and have an inbuilt rechargeable battery. This makes them easy to carry, even for a 2-year-old child. They also come with earphones which serve to limit noise interference. The MP3 set consist of the earphones, memory card and charging cable. The MP3 players have 4 Gigabyte memory cards which have a capacity to record an estimated 400 hours of voice recording. That is 800 lessons of 30 minutes each. Considering that between 8 am to 1 pm, a child at school has an average of 10 periods of 30 minutes, it implies that a single 4 Gb memory card can store data enough for 80 school days! That is more than the number of school days in Zimbabwe which average between 62 to 68 days. Learners can charge their MP3s using electricity or solar. The rapid learning content will be loaded on MP3s which are low-tech audio gadgets that a learner will use away from the classroom for continuous learning in their area of lag as identified by the subject teacher. The teacher pre-records lessons in audio format using a voice recorder. These lessons are then loaded into MP3 players via a computer. After that the students are each given an MP3 player on which he/she can listen to the lessons. Learner listening and teacher communication skills will need to be developed so that the program will be effective. The learner then takes the MP3 player wherever he/she wants. This means that when they walk to and from school, they can be learning. When they are doing chores such as fetching firewood, doing dishes or herding cattle they can listen to the lessons. When it rains and the learners cannot go to school because of flooded rivers, they can just listen to the lessons on their MP3 players.

Sustainability :
For sustainability the innovation needs to be incorporated into the greater education system with strict monitoring and evaluation and impact assessments. There is need for the involvement of the educational stakeholders and the community to ensure that the community also understands the relevance and importance of the innovation. Scaling can be achieved through collective involvement of other caregivers, system teachers, educational stakeholders and the involvement of other schools and districts in all the provinces. There is need for collective stakeholder collaborate to ensure consistent quality standards especially in the content that is being recorded. Learners can also get assistance from family members who can also listen in on the recorded lessons. After the family members listen, they can help the learner by explaining what the teacher said. Study points and questions can also be derived from the recordings by the family members. Also, study groups can be formed between the learners whilst they are at home. These would be closely monitored by adults. The local ICT organisation can ensure that these MP3 gadgets are manufacture or assembled locally to ensure durability and easy maintenance.
Impact Story:
TFZ is already implementing the program in two districts with over 1000 learners. But the pilot project is being implemented only in Mutoko and Chiredzi District. The first school to implement the project was Bondamakara Primary School in Mutoko District in Zimbabwe, who described the innovation as one of the best in ensuring continuous teaching and learning for the rural children. The parents are extremely supportive and indicated their interest in getting involved in the education of their children especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Currently, the schools are closed because of the Covid-19 lock down but our learners have been continuously learning using the preloaded material in the Mp3s. Moreover, TFZ have also started to develop compressed modules/material for secondary school subjects based on the local curriculum. These are being used to record standardised material for secondary school learners. Currently, TFZ has partnered with the Caregivers and parents, who came to the schools to collect the Mp3s on behave of each of the learners. The parents were provided with information on how the MP3 player curriculum content can be changed and adapted to suit different contexts, levels and requirements. The content can be adapted to different languages and different grades and environments. This inexpensive, low- tech gadget, the MP3, is easy to use, maintain and carry and moreover, each teacher will have the responsibility of loading the content. Parents were taught how to maintain these gadgets so that they can last long and not be used for the wrong purposes.
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