Schools to drop chalk for e-learning
ONLY 28.8% of the public schools in KwaZulu-Natal and 43.9% in the Eastern Cape have access to the internet.
These are the dynamics President Cyril Ramaphosa’s grand plan to turn public schools into Information and Communication Technology (ICT) hubs would first have to overcome if it is to benefit rural learners as well.
“The ANC government will ensure that our education curricula at all levels prepares learners to be active participants in the technological change that the global economy is experiencing,” Ramaphosa said on Saturday, reading his party’s January 8 Statement.
According to City Press, Ramaphosa’s ICT-inclined announcements will include computer coding and robotics classes for learners in Grades One to Three, universal roll-out of tablets to all learners and digitisation of textbooks.
Communications Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams said the government intended to drop the chalk board for e-learning.
But the basic education department’s data revealing that schools in provinces with vast rural communities have low internet access indicated thousands of learners could be left out.
The data is contained in the department’s report detailing the 2018 matric results. It showed that just 55.5% of schools in Limpopo have internet access, while in Mpumalanga the figure stood at 66%.
The Western Cape and Gauteng, the country’s most urban provinces, led the pack with 98.4% and 88.7% respectively. The sparsely-populated Northern Cape was third with 76.5% school internet access.
In the Free State, 77.4% of schools have internet access. The North West had 71.7% of its schools connected to the internet.
Allen Thompson of the National Teachers Union yesterday said Ramaphosa should set aside a “pro-rural schools” budget to address broadband access.
“They must also talk to Telkom to supply schools with telephone lines,” Thompson said.
“Without that we’ll still have schools without data. Data without a telephone line is terribly expensive.”
But rural schools still grappled with the most basic needs that Ramaphosa should address before even contemplating his digital plans, Thompson said.
“We still have the problem of basic infrastructure like decent sanitation. We still have schools that are without electricity. If you talk of a school that doesn’t have electricity, then you can’t talk of ICT. You can’t talk of the fourth industrial revolution,” he said.
The department’s data showed that 89.9% of the schools in the country have electricity. The province with low electrified schools was the Eastern Cape, with 79.6%.
Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson for the Basic Education Department, said the government was already collaborating with broadband providers to ensure 100% of schools have access to the internet.
“We work with ICT companies to do that,” Mhlanga said.
“They roll out access points because we cannot give schools access to internet where Vodacom, Telkom or Cell C do not have infrastructure.”