Covid-19 brings opportunity for a learning evolution in SA
08 Jul 2020
For thousands of pupils who’ve returned to school after the Covid-19 suspension, it’s been a return to a subpar “normal”, characterised by a lack of basic resources. But the pandemic has, in some notable cases, accelerated the adoption of digital learning, which is a win for the future of South Africa’s ailing education system.
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Prof. Crouch believes that there are options for bringing e-learning to all schools across the country and that the technology for doing so already exists in South Africa.“I was at an e-learning conference and was impressed by the story of how Ethiopia developed a Kindle-type device for children in mountainous areas. Learning content is delivered to the devices utilising low-flying satellites. The government there also parachuted in containers with solar panels connected to batteries where children can go to recharge their devices.
"We already have this technology in South Africa that could do this, like SUNSAT (Stellenbosch University Satellite). We have launched a microsatellite, it could cover the whole country and solve the problem of connectivity.”
Digital learning has benefits for South Africa
The department has been proactive in providing online resources for parents and learners through packaged educational material online and through radio and television.
“The advantage of this is that learning and teaching continues outside the classroom and where it is done correctly it has massive benefits. It is an important intervention that should be kept in place.”The disadvantage, he says, is that of connectivity, especially if learners do not have access to the gadgets that are needed for lessons.
“It is feasible for online learning platforms to be permanently incorporated into teaching methods in public schools in South Africa and the telecommunications sector is coming on board to support the government in this regard.”
READ MORE: Scaling reading through tech
Covid-19 brings unequal education into stark relief
Unfortunately, Kharivha is by no means the only school where a lack of resources – particularly the tools and connectivity required for online schooling – brought learning to a complete halt during the nation-wide lockdown.
“The result is that a child’s experience of education in South Africa still very much depends on where they are born, how wealthy they are, and the colour of their skin.” - Amnesty International
Online learning proves to be a saviour for many schools
Vodacom has reported that registration for its free e-learning platform has surged since schools closed for lockdown: from an average of 40,000 student events per day to a peak of almost 150,000. Vodacom’s E-School provides educational content for learners in grades R to 12 in all 11 official South African languages.
READ MORE: GWF educating rural communities through digital learning
Don't let a crisis go to waste
To ensure continuity of tuition, an online version was piloted in June. In partnership with Kutlwanong and Tuta-Me, Promaths Online delivers virtual lessons to current learners, at no cost to them. Investec is carrying the cost of data usage through a reverse billing arrangement with the major network providers. Current matrics were the first to be on-boarded, followed by Grade 10 and 11 learners, in a phased approach.
Listen to Setlogane Manchidi (Investec) and Phemelo Segoe (Mobi-Tuta) on Classic FM
Promaths goes digital
"Investec's Promath is a standout education programme, during very difficult times," says Michael Avery of Classic Business. Find out how the programme has managed to adapt to Covid-19 by going digital.
Also subscribe to Investec Focus Radio SA wherever you get your podcasts
Covid-19 presented the perfect opportunity to scale Promaths for the benefit of many who need it. This new online offering now represents hope for children at a time when they need it most.
Setlogane Manchidi, Investec CSI head
Watch Setlogane in conversation with Samm Marshall of Social TV-Newscast
Promaths students are far from the only children who’re benefitting from online, distance learning. Several private schools have been developing online lessons for years, and Covid-19 gave them the opportunity to implement.
Private schools continued teaching despite lockdown
“In a sense we never closed. We are fortunate that we work off Google. When the President announced that schools would physically close, we switched to Google and all students went online with teachers,” says headmaster, Shane Kidwell.
In an effort to make a difference to the lives of those less fortunate, the school has partnered with a low-cost school in Garankuwa. Staff and pupils meet regularly throughout the school year and share their online resources.
READ MORE: How big data is changing classrooms in SA
Kidwell hopes that the COVID-19 crisis will provide the impetus for schools to start sharing resources more, especially in an online space.While there are huge barriers to overcome in education in South Africa the Covid-19 epidemic has proved that in times of crisis it is essential to adapt to new ways of doing things and has forced the faster evolution of education in the country. Online learning does offer an opportunity for a more equitable education system as long as the poor and marginalised are not left by the wayside.