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New edtech firm provides online content in local languages

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 04 Oct 2021
Phumzile Hlatshwayo, project manager at the Virtual Institute of Technology.
Phumzile Hlatshwayo, project manager at the Virtual Institute of Technology.

With 4 700 registered users currently using its platform, the Virtual Institute of Technology (VIT) expects its user numbers to grow “exponentially” over the next 18 months.

This is according to VIT project manager Phumzile Hlatshwayo, speaking at the launch of the edtech company before a hybrid audience.

Officially unveiled last week, VIT is an edtech firm focused on providing high school learners and technical and vocational education and training students with online educational content.

The firm focuses on developing digital educational content, providing online tutoring to individual learners and students, as well as online webinars to groups of learners and students. In addition, tutors are able to deliver their subjects of expertise in local languages, making the content accessible and the interactions relatable.

According to VIT, it has identified township areas and rural communities as key markets where it believes key interventions are required to ensure nobody is left behind, as the digital delivery of education gains momentum.

To develop the free-to-use online education platform, the edtech firm partnered with local companies Thabure Towerco and Maredi Telecoms.

Says Hlatshwayo: “The establishment of the VIT leverages the experience of Maredi Telecoms in training the youth into industry, Thabure Towerco’s ability to provide reliable broadband connectivity in remote areas, and the VIT in-house capability to develop digital learning content and administrate robust learning management systems.”

The hybrid launch event took place at the June 16 Memorial Acre in Jabavu, Soweto. It was attended by members of the local community, industry players, as well as local and international online participants.

Commenting on the launch, retired Western Cape High Court judge Siraj Desai said: “It’s over 45 years ago that the youth of Soweto and other townships across the country marched in demand of quality education.

“Many paid the ultimate price by losing their lives. The launch of VIT at this specific place cannot be overstated. It is a stark reminder that the quest for quality education remains a struggle for many learners, students and households in the townships and rural areas.”

Andy Songo, director at VIT, added: “People like professor Jonathan Jansen have criticised the current trajectory of digital education as elitist and entrenching educational inequality. There is validity in this criticism. We are responding to this challenge.”

According to Songo, the edtech firm is also training young people from Phuthanang Youth Trust, and has appointed some of them as interns, adding they will support their households and users in the adoption of digital learning.

“We are running similar projects in remote areas such as Lephalale and Vhembe in Limpopo, and Maipeng in the Northern Cape. We will be expanding to other places like Orange Farm in Gauteng and Hambanathi in KZN during the early parts of 2022.

“The VIT is well-positioned to transform communities and make a difference to the educational system in the country.”