Quality Education in Rural Learning Ecologies in Zimbabwe

Obstacles and Opportunities

by Christopher Ndlovu (Volume editor)
©2023 Edited Collection XVI, 188 Pages


This book brings together a series of papers on education in rural Zimbabwe. It is informed throughout by the generative theory of rurality, which sees rural communities as the most significant agents in solving the challenges they face. Against this theoretical backdrop, the 13 chapters challenge policy makers, researchers and educators to confront the problem of poor academic performance among learners in rural learning ecologies. The book demonstrates that rural communities, in Zimbabwe and elsewhere, can improve their educational outcomes through community-led action, involving traditional leadership and other stakeholders. The key message is that communities have the opportunity to become the authors of their own destinies in shaping future educational results.
"This book brings together important views on improving learning in rural ecologies. The arguments brought forward can lead to responsive policies that can greatly benefit rural education."
—Colwasi Mthunzi, Professor of Curriculum Innovations, Solusi University
"A book that brings so much hope for rural learners and also encourages the community and parents/guardians to play an active role in the learning of their children."
—Nosizo Shava, Senior Sociology Lecturer, Hillside Teachers College
"Well-articulated papers on the ways of reducing inequalities between rural and urban education."
—Shepherd Ndondo, Post-doc fellow in Philosophy of Education, University of Fort Hare

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • List of Figure
  • List of Tables
  • Preface
  • Acknowledgments
  • List of Abbreviations
  • 1. Online learning opportunities for quality rural learning ecologies (Ntandoyenkosi Satamwe & Nhlanhla Mkwelie)
  • 2. Diaspora contribution to rural education (Tinashe Pikirai, Pikirai Tecla & Christopher Ndlovu)
  • 3. Improving the teaching and learning of agriculture through the use of viable school gardens in rural schools (Siphiwo Ncube & Christopher Ndlovu)
  • 4. Home involvement and Early Childhood Development (ECD) learning: Challenges and opportunities in Zimbabwean rural ecosystem (Ndondo Semkeliso & Ndondo Shepherd)
  • 5. Potential of home involvement in creating learning spaces in rural areas (Mkwananzi Dumisani & Cynthia Ncube)
  • 6. Attainment of Sustainable Development Goal 4 (SDG 4): Teacher perceptions, readiness and practices (Judith Musengi)
  • 7. Use of ChiTonga language as a medium of instruction across the Early Childhood Development curricula in ChiTonga speaking Districts of Zimbabwe (Mudimba Collen)
  • 8. Changing home environments to learning centres: An alternative pathway to improved learning outcomes in rural ecologies (Samkeliso Mathe & Christopher Ndlovu)
  • 9. Quality curriculum for rural learning ecologies in Zimbabwe (Mandlenkosi Ndlovu)
  • 10. Online instruction during COVID 19 pandemic: Excluding the already excluded rural learner (Mlungisi Moyo & Mudimba Collen)
  • 11. Online learning opportunities in rural learning ecologies (Nkosiiathi Sibanda & Mpumelelo Ncube)
  • 12. Digitalization and learning opportunities in Zimbabwean rural ecologies (Ndondo Shepherd, Christopher Ndlovu & Ndondo Samkeliso)
  • 13. Influence of Zimbabwean policies on rural female learners progression in advanced level science subjects (Pinias Chikuvadze & Munyaradzi Chidarikire)
  • Contributors’ Biographies

←ix | x→ ←x | xi→


If those in a crisis situation take the initiative and institute effective and relevant corrective measures that can extricate them from the predicament they are facing, progress and sustainable development can be realised. The common old adage says, ‘There could be nothing for them without them.’ Events throughout the world have aptly demonstrated that solutions that are imposed from above or by external players and agencies, without the involvement of key and direct stakeholders on the ground, always produce ineffective results.

In this single volume, we seek to emphasise on the need for rural stakeholders in the education sector, i.e. learners, teachers, and communities in general, that it is through their active involvement in changing learning activities and conditions in their ecologies that they can indeed transform these environments and make them relevant and useful. This book will not only describe the deplorable conditions that learners and teachers experience in rural areas in Zimbabwe, but will also explain and recommend that stakeholders in rural learning ecologies proactively participate as change agents in transforming learning and teaching conditions and activities in their environments. Perceptions on the viability of externally-driven change that is not context-specific is questioned through our various contributions in this book, as we emphasise on uniqueness instead of universality in terms of the curriculum design and implementation. Our main argument is that people should teach and learn what will enable them to put food on their tables, and that which will not make them stranded and always look for external assistance.

This book will make you realise that, if homes are transformed into active learning centres; that if communities fund their own learning programmes, and utilise their heritage in learning and teaching, and craft a curriculum that is grounded in local culture and needs, then issues perceived as obstacles in ←xi | xii→rural learning ecologies would be turned into opportunities. Our view is that, standardised practices, or what are usually termed ‘international best practices’ make people look for external solutions for challenges that are peculiar to a specific environment. A common thread that runs through all the presentations in this book is that, stakeholders in rural learning environments should capacitate themselves through utilising locally-available resources, to inter alia, motivate both learners and teachers, produce goods and services that are relevant to the needs and aspirations of the local people, and make sure that communities take care of the welfare of the teachers.

There are more opportunities than obstacles in the education sector in rural ecologies. If this collection contributes to that realisation, then it will have achieved its core mission.


This book is the brainchild of Lupane State University’s Educational Foundations Department whose niche is anchored on improving learning in rural learning ecologies. The editor who is a National of Institute of Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) funded scholar acknowledges this institution for the role it played in the origination of this book. The book would not have been successful without the wonderful work of all the contributors who fully applied themselves in coming up with these innovative chapters. Compiling the chapters into this book although not easy, was such an eye opener to the potential that lies in working together under Ubuntu philosophy. Indeed, all the chapters attest to the fact that we need to have a paradigm shift if learning in rural ecologies is to be improved. Thank you all! Great appreciation also to the publishers, Peter Lang, and their editorial team for their role in the publication of this book.

←0 | 1→

1. Online learning opportunities for quality rural learning ecologies

Ntandoyenkosi Satamwe & Nhlanhla Mkwelie


Dube (2021) declares that rural learning ecologies in third-world countries remain disadvantaged concerning the access to quality education compared to their counterparts in urban areas. There are several attributes of rural learning ecologies that adversely affect the access and provision of quality of education. They include a lack of qualified teachers, poor working conditions, poor internet connectivity, lack of electricity, and competing priorities between accessing education and domestic chores (Belay, 2020). These affect the rural learners’ access to quality education as well as academic achievement. The problems of rural learning ecologies are further worsened by the continued under-resourcing of schools. However, adopting an online learning mode for rural learners remains vital. Extant literature reveals that Online learning has improved the access to learning resources during the COVID-19 pandemic period. Therefore, this chapter explores online learning opportunities for quality rural learning ecologies.

The concept of online learning

The concept and practice of online learning are not new in the educational field, but what is new is its implementation in rural learning ecologies. According to Hlalele (2013), a learning ecology is an environment that is consistent with how learners learn. Hlalele further highlights that most rural learning ecologies have low access to online resources due lack of internet connectivity and electricity. However, when online learning is well implemented in rural areas, it has great potential to support deep and meaningful ←1 | 2→learning among rural learners. Online education is viewed as a subset of distance learning that provides more flexible access to educational experiences than face-to-face learning (Liaw & Huang, 2003).

Dube (2021) asserts that online learning has become one of the vital modes of learning during the COVID-19 pandemic period because of social distancing measures. It is no more optional as it used to be during the pre-COVID-19 pandemic era but has become a necessity in every learning ecology. Different countries use different terms to refer to online learning such as ‘web-based learning’, ‘e-Learning’, computer-mediated learning, and virtual learning. Rossi (2009) describes online learning as access to learning experiences via electronic means such as the Internet. Online learning has its roots in distance learning. Moore (2011) notes that the distance, in online learning is not defined by the physical distance but by ‘transactional distance’. Transactional distance is an interaction gap or barrier caused by the physical separation of students from their lecturers. Algahtani (2011) opines that online learning involves learning experiences in synchronous or asynchronous environments using different digital devices with internet access. Abbad et al. (2009), conceive online learning as any learning that is enabled electronically. Online learning has been defined as any web-based learning (LaRose, Gregg, & Eastin, 1998; Keller & Cernerud, 2002). Ngozi, Onoimiuko, and Ebere (2020) posit that the online learning mode provides learners with opportunities to interact with the learning content found in different formats such as videos, audios, word documents, slideshows, and PDFs. In addition, Majumdar (2006) notes that the advent of the online instructional model has changed drastically the learning environment as well as the roles of both learners and teachers. Majumdar (2006) asserts that the major hallmark of this learning transition is the shift from teacher-centred to learner-centred paradigm.

Online instructional model

Algahtani (2011) has identified three distinct ways of using online learning in education, which are the adjunct, blended, and wholly online. The adjunct online learning model is when online learning is used as an assistant in the traditional classroom model (Algahtani, 2011). The blended learning model is the combination of traditional face-to-face learning and online learning whereas the wholly online model is total online learning (Algahtani, 2011; Zeitoun, 2008). Zeitoun (2008) has gone further to sub-divide the wholly online learning model into synchronous and asynchronous learning. The online Instructional Model is shown in Figure 1.1.

Fig 1.1:Online Instructional Model [Source: Adapted from Algahtani, 2011, p. 404]

←2 | 3→

Role of teachers and learners in the online learning

Marsh (2012) argues that the teacher’s role has always been central in providing a structured and engaging teaching and learning environment to learners. Thus, the role of the teacher in the online learning environment remains indispensable. Abaidoo and Arkorful (2014) affirm that the online learning model has changed the role of a teacher from being a knowledge provider to that of a facilitator of knowledge construction during the learning. Thus, in an online learning environment, the role of the teacher is to help students to be responsible for their learning. Marsh (2012) notes that the role of a learner has been changed from being a passive learner to an active learner, from a dependent learner to an autonomous learner. This is in line with the contemporary teaching principles which advocate for self-regulated learning.

Benefits of online learning

The adoption of online learning in the education field, especially in rural learning ecologies has several benefits. The benefits include flexibility in terms of time and place. Smedley (2010) posits that the adoption of online learning by learning institutions provides the students with much flexibility in terms of time and place of delivery. Students can access the learning material at any time and from anywhere. Moreover, it provides a more individualised learning experience and personalised learning support, which is necessary for self-regulation (Abaidoo & Arkorful, 2014). Online instruction ←3 | 4→improves communication among students and between students and lecturers through collaboration. Amer (2007) asserts that online learning supports and encourages independent learning. Moreover, online learning promotes the development of 21st-century skills such as critical thinking, problem- solving, innovation, communication, and collaborative learning. Marsh (2012) says that online learning helps the learner to share learning resources and it promotes learner collaborative learning principles. Marsh further states that online learning increases student engagement in learning. Marsh (2012) argues that online learning can provide diverse ways of learning, thereby allowing different learning styles, as well as greater access to learning. Furthermore, online learning facilitates the construction of a potentially richer learning environment that enhances meaningful learning.


XVI, 188
ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2023 (May)
Rural ecologies rural settings learning outcomes rural learners guardians learner capacitation online learning covid-19 sustainable education exclusion curriculum culturally-grounded medium of instruction lifelong learning inclusive education quality education home environment resource availability & traditional classroom Quality Education in rural Learning Ecologies in Zimbabwe Obstacles and Opportunities Christopher Ndlovu
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Oxford, Wien, 2023. XVI, 188 pp., 1 b/w ill., 4 tables.

Biographical notes

Christopher Ndlovu (Volume editor)

Christopher Ndlovu has a PhD in sociology from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, and is currently a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Educational Foundations at Lupane State University in Zimbabwe. His research interests are indigenous knowledge systems and their integration into the formal school curriculum, and the advancement of rural education.


Title: Quality Education in Rural Learning Ecologies in Zimbabwe