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Home-schooling in the face of Covid-19

By Benhilda Gwacha Dube

According to the National Development Strategy 1 (NDS1) document, Human Capital Development and Innovation are the engines which will drive the NDS1 and the country’s progress towards Vision 2030 (being an upper middle income economy). Human Capital Development and Innovation are believed to create the right conditions for a knowledge-driven economy for sustained growth, industrialisation and modernisation of Zimbabwe.

Over the past decade, the quality of education and basic foundational skills such as literacy and numeracy have declined, which is generally of concern across the country, and particularly for disadvantaged learners in rural and remote areas (NDS1, 2020).

Currently, school attendance of all learners from primary to higher and tertiary has seriously declined due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Measures have been put in place such as social distancing in classes and other public places but we have seen countries resorting to national lockdowns.

This has affected a lot of learners in primary schools in Zimbabwe as they are moving from one grade to another after learning less than 50% of the required material in each grade.

This has been intensified by the fact that the majority of primary students are not able to learn using ICT, due to reasons such as lack of electronic gadgets and internet connectivity among others. As such, we need to act now to protect the human capital of our children.

This has motivated me to look into home-schooling as one way that the country can consider for primary school education, so that we safeguard the human capital of the future generation.

According Schultz (1993), Human capital refers to process that relates to training, education and other professional initiatives in order to increase the levels of knowledge, skills, abilities, values, and social assets of an employee which will lead to the employee’s satisfaction and performance as well as the creation of personal, social and economic well-being.

Becker (1993) noted that the most valuable of all capital is that investment in human beings and considers education and training to be the most important investment in human capital.

Zimbabwe had a projected population of 16,2 million in 2020. The population is young with about 42% being under 15 years (Statista, 2021). This raises concern on the impact of the pandemic on the future employability and access to services of these children.

Despite the delayed physical opening of educational institutions, some schools were able to restart classes using digital platforms.

However, it is predominantly urban and middle-class households who are able to.

If this situation of skewed access to education continues for a lengthy period, it could exacerbate inequalities in education outcomes, poverty reduction and ultimately human development, this therefore requires rural parents to consider home-schooling for their children.

Home-schooling is an alternative form of education in which children are instructed at home rather than at a traditional public or private school.

The children are instructed by parents, guardians, or other tutors. Home-schooling is not a new phenomenon.

In colonial days families, including wealthy ones, educated their children at home, combining the efforts of parents, tutors, and older children.

The rural one-room schoolhouse was created by families that banded together to hire a teacher who could substitute for parents but who would use the same mixture of direct instruction, tutoring, and mentoring by older children.

Parents are therefore very crucial in the introduction of home-schooling in Zimbabwe’s rural areas as they need to be committed as well as appreciate the benefits of home-schooling.

Personalised education

The educational structure of home-schooling enables parents and teachers to work together to tailor the learner. Unlike traditional classrooms, where the ratio is often dozens of learners to one teacher, home-schooling makes possible an individualised, one-on-one learning environment which helps in quickly identifying the needs of the learner.

Home-schooling also affords parents and instructors the flexibility to change the approach or adjust teaching methods if something is not working for the learner. In this sense, learners will not be left behind if a particular lesson plan or activity is not connecting with them.

For example at my home my sister was home-schooling my grade 1 daughter and she realised that she does not like maths so to motivate her, they use biscuits as counters.

All the questions she scores correctly she gets to take all the biscuits for herself.

Schedule flexibility

With home-schooling, either in the parent-to-child or online environment, the days do not revolve around when the bell rings, what time lunch happens, or how long recess is. Instead, students can take advantage of the more flexible learning schedule by doing the work that needs to get done and enjoying the free time that remains as well as using it for other home chores. Home-schooled learners work according to a daily routine that satisfies both the needs of their education and their personal freedom.

Take classes anywhere

Home-schooling can be taken anywhere and done anytime. With home-schooling, you do not have to worry about falling behind, because the home-school curriculum can be taken with you anywhere you go, it is not confined to a certain place or setting. For example school can be done while in the home garden, where you can teach them agriculture by asking then to identify plants and pests, also when cleaning the house, you can teach them about hygiene and home management as such, with home-schooling class can be done anywhere which provides convenience for both the parent and the learner

Community engagement

Students educated from home get a head start on adult and career skills such as time management, self-motivation and taking charge of their own education. Rather than focusing only on grades, home-schooling encourages students not just to take accountability for their actions, but also to discover the joy of learning. Home-schooling enables them to be more involved in their communities such that they can be able to identify the problems faced by their communities and to come up with solutions.

Reduction of burden on fiscus

Considering home-schooling during the winters where we usually have increased cases of Covid-19, can reduce government spending on public schools.

Having winter home-schooling means opening only for two terms per year as such government resources can be moved to other critical areas such as the health sector.

Since parents will not be paying fees during school closures, they can use those resources to take care of home-schooling needs.

Government can initiate that local schools lend parents some teaching materials such as text books and syllabuses, the teachers set assessment tests which will be administered by parents at home and parents can then give a progress report to the teacher.

This can be adopted as a way of attending school in winter for all primary school learners, even those in urban areas.

However, the effectiveness of home-schooling may be affected by the attitude of parents, availability of resources such as text books enough to cover all the families that require them and skills of parents as in some rural homes members did not go far with education.

These challenges may be overcome if extended families are willing to share the resources and make use of all the family members who are capable of teaching the learners (of which with the assistance from local teachers a parent or family member need to be able to read and write to be useful in home-schooling)

Conclusion

Home-schooling can be potent in preserving the human capital of our children in Zimbabwe during the lockdown period and still be able to attain the vision of being an upper middle income economy by 2030 in the face of Covid-19.

Dube is an economist. This weekly column New Horizon is published in the Zimbabwe Independent and coordinated by Lovemore Kadenge, an independent consultant, past president of the Zimbabwe Economics Society and past-president of the Institute of Chartered Secretaries & Administrators in Zimbabwe. — kadenge.zes@gmail.com or mobile: +263 772 382 852.

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