Major projects have included the refurbishment of a computer lab in Cross Dete for Detema Secondary School in Hwange. This new facility has helped students and even the local community, to enrol in digital education. In addition, ITEZ partnered with the Tag Rugby Trust, and together they built a new lab at a local sports centre specifically designed for girls - many of whom are considered vulnerable - that participate in the Tag Rugby Trust’s programmes. However, it is not easy work. The Zimbabwean economy has caused huge difficulties for all charities there, including ITEZ. Charlie explains that planning and budgeting new projects has become increasingly difficult due to the rise in the black market of US Dollars. This has deeply weakened the local Zimbabwean currency, amidst the hyper-inflation. To put this into context, the rate of inflation reached an all-time high of 837.53 percent in July 2020. The crippling economy, inevitably, has affected the ability of schools to apply for the government funding which they need if they are to have an ITEZ e-lab. There are other expenses to cater for too, such as furniture and maintenance, further preventing these educational institutions from investing in new technology. The fact that many children have still received their newly refurbished computers within their own e-learning labs shows just how determined Charlie and the team are.
The three terms of the Zimbabwean school year have been disrupted; most notably for students who are meant to be taking exams but have not completed their course content and so now cannot start their next phase of education. Charlie describes the disruption as ‘the most difficult situation we have at hand’. With no financial support, such as a furlough scheme, Zimbabwean teachers are being forced to make ends meet by offering private home tuition. However, this is now banned due to the possibility of transmission and as such teaching staff are not allowed to travel on public transport. Most schools have been closed since March, and any attempts to re-open them have been followed by sharp rises in local cases, resulting in immediate closure.
Nonetheless, with our help and support, ITEZ can continue to provide the best work that they can. Charlie hopes that this pandemic, and the children who have literally lost months of their education, will make those in power realise how important ICT is for Zimbabwean schools.