Govt, TNM Sign Online Learning Agreement

By Patricia Kapulula

Lilongwe, April 21, Mana: The Malawi Government through the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and Telecom Network Malawi (TNM Plc) have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on online learning as an innovation to keeping children busy with lessons while at home.

This comes in the wake of closure of schools due to the coronavirus scare.

Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Dr William Susuwele Banda who signed the MOU on behalf of the Malawi Government in Lilongwe on Tuesday said the agreement is one of the interventions that have been put in place to enable continuous learning for learners.

He said as the country is sailing though unprecedented situation in the education sector, the ministry is responding to the situation to the best of its capabilities with support from its partners hence the signing of the MOU.   

Under this arrangement, all students from Forms 1 to 2, be it from public or private schools, will be able to access lessons through the Ministry’s website www.education.gov.mw where the lessons have been uploaded at no data cost.

“The only determinant will be for the student to have a TNM number and they are good to go,” he said.

The ministry will soon upload Forms 3 and 4 online content as soon as the development has been finalised.

Meanwhile, the ministry is in its final stages of developing radio lessons through the Malawi College of Distance Education (MCDE) to cover primary school learners.

Susuwele Banda said the lessons will bring the teachers directly interfacing with the learner through radio programs.

“We will have these programs on Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC) and other radio stations. A detailed schedule providing actual broadcast times will be provided by my ministry soon,” he said.

TNM PLC Chief Executive Officer, Michiel Buitelaar said his company thought of partnering with the Malawi Government because education is important while describing online education as an area where Malawi can make a big stride.

He said in the era of COVID-19, online education is very important as it enables students to do certain things that become difficult in an out of school environment.

TNM Plc has offered to provide free access to online education content to students in order to access lessons.

“We are providing several things such as free access to the website, 1,000 sim cards for the tablets. Some of them have short time limit while others will continue even after COVID-19,” he said.

He said his company is determined to ensure that what has been signed works for the benefit of all.

The ministry is working with players such as the Malawi Digital Broadcasting Network Limited (MDBNL), Padziwe and other media houses in developing television content as a way of reaching out to those who would prefer education content through television.

The ministry is also working with VSO International who will provide 10, 000 tablets starting with an initial 1,000 tablets that will be provided to primary school learners in rural areas complete with solar charging.  

In responding to the need to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, on 23rd March this year President Prof Arthur Peter Mutharika directed that all schools, colleges including technical colleges, both public and private be closed.

Over 5.4 million children, youths and adults in the country have not been attending schools or universities as a result of COVID-19 precautionary measures.