Minister banks on ICT to reboot education system

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 14 Mar 2022
Vodacom Business CEO William Mzimba and basic education minister Angie Motshekga at the launch of the Vodacom virtual classroom solution.
Vodacom Business CEO William Mzimba and basic education minister Angie Motshekga at the launch of the Vodacom virtual classroom solution.

The education department is banking on ICT in education and virtual classrooms to help reboot the system and claw back what was lost because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

So said minister Angie Motshekga, speaking on the occasion of Vodacom’s virtual classroom solution handover to the Department of Basic Education (DBE).

Motshekga indicated the pandemic had a devastating effect on the education sector, noting this year’s grade three learners as the ones that have had a lesser learning and teaching experience over the past two years.

She said the education sector needs to build back better, adding that innovations such as the virtual classroom will enable this. “This virtual classroom solution allows us to have all learning resources in one fit-for-purpose portal designed by experts with the interest of learners and teachers in mind.

“ICTs, I know these kids enjoy them, which will help us to make sure they learn…and to be able to really reboot our system.”

Mobile operator Vodacom this morning handed over the virtual classroom solution curated in partnership with the DBE and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa.

Vodacom combined connectivity, devices, curriculum-based content and cloud storage to develop the ready-made virtual classroom for learners and teachers.

With access to smarter digital tools, educators can track important student metrics, while still keeping the personal touch, according to the mobile operator. Learners can also engage with the content online and offline.

The solution has already been rolled out in some schools in KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and Northern Cape, with plans to make it available in other regions in future.

Vodacom Business CEO William Mzimba explained the virtual classrooms launch extends the partnership the mobile operator has with the DBE, to advance digital education.

For Vodacom, education is at the core of being a purpose-led organisation, said Mzimba.

“When we talk about connecting for a better future, we address three pillars, namely: digital, inclusion and leaving the planet a better place than we found it. Those three pillars…are core and pivotal to our continued contribution in education.

“We have to make sure every single child that is capable of learning can learn physically in the classroom but can also access digital methods, tools, applications and technologies to allow them to be able to learn.”

He pointed out it is the group’s ambition to see every child has access to digital tools and technologies, so that the over 13 million learners – that are able and willing to learn – are able to learn in multiple ways: physically and digitally.

“What we seek to do is bring all these dimensions together. The content, digital, device, access, security, technology and funding aspects under one major project, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education.

“This is to make sure we can support the execution of the department’s digital strategy, which seeks to get digital in the classroom and usher in hybrid learning.

“We, through this initiative, have curated what we believe is a new way in which the combination of on-premises, physical as well as hybrid can be brought together.”

He stated education can now be delivered offline, rendered online, and learners can also download the lectures or material during their own time.

In addition to the virtual classroom, Vodacom is deploying IT libraries in the schools as a way to continue to teach learners and educators how to use technologies, Mzimba concluded.