Dr Tonderai James Zendah, the principal at Morgan Zintech Teachers College recently urged authorities to allow both students and teachers to use smartphones to aid learning.
We have a situation whereby pupils are searched when they board buses to go to school because we want to make sure they don’t carry smartphones. We as headmasters brag to our colleagues about how strict we are on this issue not knowing that we are being enemies of progress.
Dr Tonderai Zendah
This debate is certainly not new and there is and has been a very clear divide regarding this issue. Those who advocate for cellphones in schools have for a long time defended the research prowess offered by the devices whilst those against it have argued that smartphones would serve as a distraction more than anything else.
How can this debate be resolved?
Maybe what the Ministry of Education ought to do is embark on a trial programme where they allow a certain number of schools to relax the cellphone ban and then they provide guidelines on how cellphones ought to be used in the schools.
Let us not stifle technology. I prefer we move a gear up and allow cell phones in school but probably those with a specific software.
The guidelines will be clear to students, parents and teachers and if the guidelines are not met the Ministry will be able to make informed adjustments or an outright ban if necessary. Without such an implementation it’s hard to see any other outcome except for the one we’ve had for the better part of a decade now; where we have those for and those against smartphones in the classroom.
France banned mobile phones in school and whilst many will raise that as evidence that phones should be banned that should not be the be-all and end-all of the argument. Why? Well, France and many other developed countries usually have the required infrastructure in place (e.g Computers and tablets). That is not the case in Zimbabwe and thus maybe cellphones can be an alternative (as a former Minister of Education argued to his detriment a few years ago) since they are the most accessible.