Until April this year, the idea of integrating digital technology in the delivery of education in Malawi sounded alien.
However, the coronavirus outbreak has revolutionised such perceptions.
Digital technology will finally deliver secondary school education to learners staying home to prevent coronavirus (Covid-19)disease.
This technology, which has always been a part of our teaching and learning resources, has long received a cold shoulder from most stakeholders.
It is good that the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has adopted ICT for teaching and learning.
Given the abrupt implementation of the neglected resource, how prepared is the country to embrace this development?
As economies crumble, conducting lessons through radios and televisions sounds commendable.
The use of ICT in education tends to expose social, cultural and economic disparities among the learners.
However, making such technologies affordable will help most learners access educational materials.
With time, advanced technologies, such as massive open online courses which are vibrant in other countries, will be hosted.
Studies show most southern African countries are struggling to go through digital evolution due to policies that backfire against the very technology they advance.
The policies include bans on mobile phone use by secondary school students.
The idea behind the ban sounds welcome: preventing distraction in learning. However, in the digital age, cellphones are no longer luxurious gadgets but necessary tools for schooling.
Learners must be allowed to use phones for academic purposes, including online research and educational apps being developed every day in different subject areas.
As cellphones become part of their educational life, the excitement that causes distraction will wear off.
While anticipating the use of ICT as a teaching and learning resource, pay attention to the challenges this could pose.
The shift might not be well received by some sectors.
Categorically, many teachers are not well versed in modern gadgets. As a result, they have always opted to use charts, pictures and other traditional methods.
If the ministry decides to promote online teaching through professional development programmes, it could not be enough to cover the lost years of inexperience in most of the teachers.
Therefore, colleges must consider training specialists in this field to accelerate the shift. There is also a need to make computer studies compulsory in secondary school. Presently, the subject is an optional, which creates laxity among learners.
Should this policy not be revised, the new teaching method will collapse.
Most students are denied access to basic knowledge either because there no computers at their schools or the few computers available are inaccessible.
Most teachers offer computer lessons to a few students who are close to them, excluding the majority. This creates a generation of computer illiterate young men and women.
Therefore, the government must be obliged to provide computers in all schools.
As the delivery of secondary school education takes a new shape, there is a need for serious consultations with digital curriculum developers, teachers, parents, education organisations and other relevant stakeholders before implementing this programme.
Lack of consultations may cut short the future of educational technology already hanging by a thread.
With all the excitement from different sections, expect a massive outcry since the digital divide is pronounced and online learning may benefit only a few.
There will be calls to halt the programme until all learners have equal access to online education.
But the question is: Will there be a time when technology resources will be equally accessed?
Should technological developments wait until the very last person has full access to its facilities?
It is prudent to roll out the programme and let the future of educational technology unfold itself.