As education actors scramble during and post COVID-19 to reimagine teaching and learning beyond the classroom, we can learn from government ministries who have been leading innovative distance learning work for decades.
Zanzibar, a semi-autonomous region in Tanzania of nearly 1.5 million people, is one such place. While small geographically, their distance learning work is large in scope and rich in history.
From the onset of school closures in March 2020, the distance learning team at Zanzibar’s Ministry of Education and Vocational Training’s (MoEVT) has been busy broadcasting radio programs that cover literacy, numeracy and life skills from preschool through the end of primary.
They are also producing video programs that target late primary and early secondary school students and address a variety of lessons teachers have identified as difficult to teach like photosynthesis, genetics, or nutrition.
A history of distance learning
Zanzibar’s MoEVT has furthered a deep tradition of distance learning in the region. Educational radio broadcasting has been used across Tanzania since the era of independence in the 1960s.
Early radio programs were used to supplement primary and secondary school instruction and were designed for children and adult learners.
Even with increasing television viewership and internet access, educational radio programs are still used to reach communities where schools are absent and electricity is non-existent (see Global Digital Library for access to programs).
Educational television has also grown in popularity, with Ubongo Kids being one of the most popular educational programs in Tanzania today.