Vodacom Group says it is democratising access to online learning in SA through the Vodacom e-school, which has notched up 1.4 million users since launch.
Vodacom launched the e-school portal in partnership with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in 2014, with the goal to design a platform to provide access to curriculum-aligned content on a smart device at no cost.
This was in line with Vodacom’s strategy to use technology to enable societal change, by partnering with government and other organisations through narrowing the digital divide, in SA and across Sub-Saharan Africa, says the operator.
While SA has seen a surge in online learning, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the huge digital divide in SA’s education sector, which has been dubbed a “two-tier” education system.
Vodacom spokesperson Byron Kennedy tells ITWeb that the growth of the online learning portal serves as proof of how necessary digital education services are in helping Africa’s youth reach their educational goals.
“In South Africa, Vodacom e-school has 1.4 million registered e-school users (teachers and scholars) with an additional 185 000 school users in Tanzania and 200 000 in the DRC. The platform proved to be invaluable for the scores of school-going children at home that were placed on extended school break as South Africa grappled with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“By the end of March 2020, uptake on Vodacom e-school increased exponentially, with user registrations on the platform increasing by over 1 000%, compared to previous historic periods. Content utilisation also increased by 300% over previous averages, with mathematics, natural sciences and accounting topping the charts during this time.”
The Vodacom e-school is available on mobile and desktop devices, free of charge.
Championed by basic education minister Angie Motshekga, the portal provides free access to quality education for pupils from Grade R to 12, in multiple South African official languages.
It provides users with digital learning materials and support services through a cloud-based platform and includes various learning resources, such as interactive textbooks, quizzes, multimedia content and assessments.
A recent Vodacom report states that while digital technologies have transformed education in SA and across Africa, inconsistent power supply, limited technical support and high data costs are among the key obstacles.
Local telcos have been increasingly tapping into the e-learning space.
In 2020, Telkom introduced an online learning portal for primary and high school learners available through edtech platform Lightbulb Education.
In 2021, MTN invested R12 million in a new online school, developed in partnership with the DBE and the National Education Collaboration Trust.
Cell C has zero-rated several educational platforms for scholars and university students.
Looking ahead, Vodacom says it wants to focus on creating an enabling environment to increase access to online learning and digital support, particularly for teachers, by offering the training and support they need to use digital technologies for teaching and learning.