Teacher trainees will no longer incur data charges in order
to access educational content. Uganda’s leading telecommunications provider MTN
has zero-rated the one-stop online learning portal for aspiring teachers.
Zero-rating is the practice of not charging customers for data use on specific websites and services by internet service providers and mobile service providers. Learners subscribed to the MTN network will be able to access the learning portal free of charge.
The platform was developed by Enabel and the Ministry of Education as part of the distance learning strategy called the “Teacher Training Education sandbox”. This was in response to the learning disruption caused by COVID-19. The pandemic led to closure of schools in March although government reopened them mid last month for candidate and final year students.
The distance learning strategy is meant to ensure learning continuity in Uganda’s 5 national teacher’s colleges. Although digital course content covering the entire teacher training curriculum was successfully developed with support from teachers and uploaded on the one-stop portal, access was hampered by high internet costs.
According to the telecoms regulator Uganda Communications Commission, the East African nation has the highest internet cost in the region. This coupled with high poverty levels hinders internet access which moreover is needed to facilitate distance learning especially during this period of schools closure due to the coronavirus disease. Uganda’s 2019 communications report indicates that the country’s internet penetration now stands at 37.9%.
MTN Foundation’s Senior Manager, Bryan Mbasa says the availability of digital education content has been a major challenge in Uganda. The portal, he noted will partly solve the problem.
“It is a great pleasure for us to zero-rate access to this platform. As long as you have an MTN connection, you will have zero-rated access,” Mbasa says.
The one-stop online learning portal will benefit 265 teacher trainers, 5000 student teachers and 16 partner secondary schools.
This is the second time Enabel is partnering with arguably Uganda's biggest private sector company. In 2019, the two entities collaborated to set up ICT laboratories in 3 vocational training institutes namely; St. Daniel Comboni Polytechnic NAOI (Moroto), St Simon Peter’s Vocational Training Centre (Hoima) and Amelo Technical Institute (Adjumani). MTN provided computers, servers and internet connection.
Close to 10years now, Enabel with support from the Kingdom of Belgium has been supporting Uganda to improve the quality of teacher education through infrastructural development, better management practices and improved pedagogy including integration of ICT in teaching and learning.