7 000 slaves in Swaziland, 105 000 in South Africa
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.