UNICEF’s Learning Passport bridges the digital learning gap

WHILE showing the media and other students how the learning passport works, a fourth-grade student from Gwindingwi secondary school says there is not much difference in learning between her school, which is found in both rural and urban areas.

Gwindingwi Secondary School is in Bikita district, about 120 km from Masvingo town and the school has 1,225 students served by 52 teachers.

“There’s not much difference now,” the student said as she scrolled through her personal profile dashboard on a smartphone.

“Our learning skills in rural areas have been improved thanks to the learning passport.”

“This learning platform allowed us to apply knowledge without any disruption.

“During the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw learning suspended because we did not have such learning facilities like the Learning Passport.

“We are happy to be able to prepare for our exams now.

“What makes the installation unique is that you can still use it offline, which helps most rural schools that struggle with network connectivity.”

The Learning Passport is an online, mobile and offline platform initiated by UNICEF and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in partnership with Microsoft and other public and private sector partners.

It enables learners in Zimbabwe to continue their education during pandemic emergencies such as Covid-19 and humanitarian contexts, enabling learners to reach their full potential.

The Learning Passport, which contains a digital library of program teaching and learning resources as well as open educational resources, addresses the challenges faced by millions of learners, youth and children in accessing quality education.

Flexible and adaptable, the Learning Passport is developed with a unique suite of online and offline features and capabilities. It is accessible on a portal and a mobile application.

The offline model will use a central device that acts as a server, sorting all digital content and learner recordings and a local area network so learners can connect their devices to access all digital.

The offline model allows learners and teachers in areas of little or no connectivity to continue their education, helping to bridge the digital learning gap.

“The Gwindingwi Learning Passport was launched in 2021 following the challenges we faced during the Covid-19 outbreak as we had no equipment, we only had two laptops to serve more than a thousand students,” said Derick Muzinda, Head of Gwindingwi Secondary School.

“Fortunately, this year the Minister of Information and Communications Technology and Messaging Services brought us 30 laptops.

“However, we have a network and internet connectivity problem and the machines are taking a long time to connect.

“We are working hard to install better network connectivity.

“The learning passport has helped learners to cover lost time during Covid-19 and it has improved learners’ performance a lot.”

The Learning Passport also enables a personalized record of an individual’s learning history on the platform that can be taken across physical and digital boundaries depending on the context.

Learning on the go, both online and offline, creates a unique opportunity for learners to further their education and gain the skills they need to thrive, regardless of location or educational background.

Director of communications and advocacy at the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, Taungana Ndoro, said the learning passport scheme is in line with the Giga initiative, which aims to equip every school with the internet by 2030.

“The Learning Passport is fantastic in schools and we are working with the Ministry of Information and Communications Technology and Messaging Services so that we have WiFi and good connectivity in all our schools,” Ndoro said. .

“It also ties into what UNICEF is also partnering with the government in a program called Giga where all our schools should be connected to WiFi and internet by 2030,” he said.

Speaking of the few schools that have not yet had access to learning passports, Ndoro said, “The issue is about leadership, we always emphasize that a school is only as good as its leadership.”

“If a principal has the motivation and initiative, he will definitely get a learning passport and training without any problem, but this varies from school to school due to leadership skills.

“However, we train our leaders and teachers to ensure that they access the learning passport and also benefit our learners from education.”

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