7 000 slaves in Swazi­land, 105 000 in South Africa

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - LEWIS SIME­LANE

SOUTH Africa is putting the cart be­fore the horse when it comes to dig­i­tal learn­ing. While pro­vid­ing each pupil with a tablet is ad­mirable, this should be the fi­nal step in the process, after the im­ple­men­ta­tion of a strong net­work and teacher train­ing.

Dig­i­tal learn­ing is not just about mak­ing a text­book avail­able in PDF. It’s about rich con­tent, in­ter­ac­tiv­ity and col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween pupils, teach­ers, schools and univer­si­ties to bring in­for­ma­tion to life.

Pupils are no longer pas­sive re­cip­i­ents of in­for­ma­tion, but ac­tive dig­gers. Learn­ing is not con­fined to the class­room.

To­day, pupils can use dig­i­tal tools like tablets to ex­plore a topic in depth, at any time, while dis­cussing their find­ings with pupils and teach­ers.

More to the point, chil­dren want to learn dig­i­tally.

They’ve grown up with tech­nol­ogy and ex­pect to be able to use th­ese tools in all as­pects of their lives.

But it’s not the pupils’ abil­ity to use the tools that schools should be con­cerned about. A Grade 1 pupil is more tech­savvy than a teacher who has 20 years of ex­pe­ri­ence.

A re­search study by Via Afrika re­vealed that out of South Africa’s 413 067 teach­ers, only 132 884 were trained in ba­sic com­puter skills by 2011.

With­out proper train­ing, we run the risk of teach­ers be­com­ing me­di­a­tors who sim­ply point to an app and tell pupils to com­plete a task.

Teach­ers are the ba­sis of ed­u­ca­tion and should be ac­tively in­volved in the dig­i­tal learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Be­fore that can hap­pen, they need to be re-ed­u­cated.

Sim­ply hav­ing ac­cess to a bet­ter tool­box is not enough.

Teach­ers need to be able to con­trol and man­age the use of mo­bile de­vices and con­tent. They need a solid un­der­stand­ing of how to reach a pupil who may be at home or a class­room of pupils who have been pre­vented from at­tend­ing school.

Ed­u­ca­tion does not need to take a break. This means univer­si­ties have a big­ger role to play in familiarising grad­u­ate teach­ers with the tech­nol­ogy be­ing in­tro­duced into the class­room.

Dig­i­tal learn­ing presents teach­ers with the chal­lenge and op­por­tu­nity of us­ing tech­nol­ogy to make a dif­fer­ence in pupils’ lives.

Per­haps the most cru­cial el­e­ment of dig­i­tal learn­ing is the net­work.

School and univer­sity net­works should be smart enough to en­able col­lab­o­ra­tion.

Cru­cially, ed­u­ca­tion net­works should be se­cure and sta­ble in that they should pro­tect sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion and pro­vide a con­sis­tent ex­pe­ri­ence no mat­ter where they are be­ing ac­cessed from.

With­out a strong net­work, the tablets pro­vided to pupils will be­come dig­i­tal toys.

We also run the risk of the pupil tablet ini­tia­tive go­ing the same route as the teacher one. Giv­ing teach­ers lap­tops – which are not the tools of the fu­ture – is one thing, but will they be trained in how to use the tech­nol­ogy?

South Africa’s readi­ness for dig­i­tal learn­ing is still ham­pered by a lack of skills and in­fra­struc­ture. Un­til the gov­ern­ment reaches its broad­band goals, dig­i­tal ed­u­ca­tion must be com­bined with book-based learn­ing.

The goal, how­ever, should be ubiq­ui­tous dig­i­tal learn­ing, pro­vided by com­pe­tent, tech­savvy teach­ers able to use new types of ed­u­ca­tion con­tent cre­atively and in an en­gag­ing and in­ter­ac­tive man­ner. Another ben­e­fit is that there is no ex­cuse for not de­liv­er­ing text­books and de­lay­ing ed­u­ca­tion when con­tent can be down­loaded and up­dated im­me­di­ately.

With dig­i­tal learn­ing, stu­dents are more sat­is­fied, ad­min­is­tra­tors and staff work more ef­fi­ciently, and fac­ul­ties can in­stantly col­lab­o­rate on re­search and course projects. But to achieve th­ese out­comes and drive suc­cess, cam­pus users need re­li­able ac­cess on the mo­bile de­vices and apps they choose.

There’s no denying dig­i­tal learn­ing is com­ing and it’s the pupils and the econ­omy that will suf­fer if South Africa does not get it right the first time.

Matthew Barker is the re­gional man­ager for sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa at Aruba Net­works. ABOUT 7 000 slaves are held in sub­ju­ga­tion in Swazi­land, re­ported the Global Slav­ery In­dex 2014 last week.

Swazi­land is listed as a coun­try with a medium-high level of slav­ery, com­pared to South Africa, which is ranked as hav­ing a low level of slav­ery.

But in ab­so­lute num­bers, South Africa’s pop­u­la­tion, which is five times higher than Swazi­land, has 105 000 slaves.

Call­ing mod­ern slav­ery a “hid­den crime” of­ten in­volv­ing forced labour and hu­man trafficking, the Aus­tralia-based hu­man rights or­gan­i­sa­tion Walk Free Foun­da­tion said: “All forms in­volve one per­son de­priv­ing another of their free­dom: their free­dom to leave one job for another, their free­dom to con­trol their own body.”

In Swazi­land, 6 700 peo­ple were re­ported be­ing pos­sessed or con­trolled “in such a way as to de­prive that per­son of their lib­erty, with the in­ten­tion of ex­ploit­ing them through their use, man­age­ment, profit, trans­fer or dis­posal”.

Swazi­land’s gov­ern­ment re­ceives a score of four on a scale of one to 12 for its re­sponse to slav­ery, but at 31 out of 41 sub-Sa­ha­ran coun­tries does not have the high­est per­cent­age of in­di­vid­u­als in slav­ery. Four per­cent of Mau­ri­ta­nia’s pop­u­la­tion are slaves. In ab­so­lute num­bers, Nige­ria is Africa’s hu­man slav­ery cap­i­tal, con­tain­ing 834 200. Le­sotho has dou­ble Swazi­land’s num­ber.

In Swazi­land, many slaves are mi­grants who fled vi­o­lence and nat­u­ral dis­as­ters in other sub-Sa­ha­ran coun­tries and had their free­dom taken away by Swazi em­ploy­ers, ei­ther in com­mer­cial es­tab­lish­ments, do­mes­tic servi­tude or pros­ti­tu­tion.

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