Gauteng principals receive smart tools of trade

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MEC Panyaza Lesufi at the handover ceremony of the mobile devices to Gauteng school principals yesterday.
MEC Panyaza Lesufi at the handover ceremony of the mobile devices to Gauteng school principals yesterday.

The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) is making headway towards realising its vision to provide each school principal with a smartphone to close the communications gap at its schools.

This is how MEC of education and youth development Panyaza Lesufi described the department’s latest efforts to promote digitalisation of learning in Gauteng. 

Yesterday, the GDE, in partnership with Vodacom, handed over 2 200 of the latest Samsung Galaxy A30 smartphones to principals across the province as part of this process.

“Many of our schools lack basic communication infrastructure, such as telephones,” says Lesufi. “These shortcomings have posed obstacles, impacting the department’s ability to consistently receive incident and update reports from schools.

“We can confidently say we are well on our way to overcoming this challenge, in partnership with Vodacom.”

Championing ICT

For years, the provincial education department has been vocal about its desire to ensure access to technology devices for all teachers and learners, prioritising skills development and ICT adoption under the theme of the “paperless classroom”.

While the GDE champions ICT adoption in schools across the province, these efforts have not been without their fair share of issues. Shortly after the ICT programme was introduced, schools became prime targets for thieves, and criminals started setting up syndicates in communities to steal smart boards.

However, the department has not been deterred in its efforts to get tech to principals, teachers, learners and classrooms.   

Having identified the need for better communication between principals, districts and head office, the GDE issued mobile and tablet devices to headmasters in 2014.

The purpose of the devices was to enable principals to report urgent matters to the GDE promptly, as well as be a tool to reach all principals when common messages are communicated.

Over the last few years, the GDE says, the partnership with Vodacom has enabled schools to provide updates in real-time. “The technology has also helped school principals to remain in close contact with the department for speedy resolution of problems.”

While principals previously received both tablet and mobile devices, this time around the department identified the Galaxy A30 as the best device with which to upgrade. 

“This single device will yield the same result, with benefits of substantial cost savings,” states the GDE.

“The principals’ reporting platform application allows them to log, among others, learner attendance, educator attendance, maintenance issues and security issues timeously.

Furthermore, it will serve as a platform for all Gauteng principals to share information on best practices.”

Samsung’s Galaxy A30 was launched in April, together with six other Galaxy A-series smartphones.
Samsung’s Galaxy A30 was launched in April, together with six other Galaxy A-series smartphones.

Retailing at around R4 000, the Galaxy A30 made its debut in April, when Samsung unveiled its latest Galaxy A-series smartphones.

The smartphone features a 4 000mAh battery, ultra-wide dual camera, 6.4-inch infinity-U display and 64GB storage.

Because principals will log issues telephonically, the device will be incorporated into the RT15 transversal contract, with numerous benefits such as free calls to other RT15 users and bundled SMSes. 

“Vodacom’s partnership with the Gauteng Department of Education continues to promote the digitalisation of school management as we work together to create an environment that is ultimately conducive for learning,” states Rudi Matjokana, managing executive for public enterprise at Vodacom Business Group.

“Our partnership with the GDE aligns with the South African government’s prioritisation of digital solutions to improve efficiency across all departments.”

KZN gets on board

Meanwhile, the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) officially launched its e-learning programme in Emadungeni on the south coast of the province yesterday.

According to the department, the aim is to increase access to the Internet and expand educational curricula at all levels of schooling.

Education MEC in KZN Kwazi Mshengu says: “As the Department of Education in KwaZulu-Natal, we have vowed that rural areas will not be left behind. We are in a journey where we want to make rural schools – schools of choice.

“Learners in rural schools must be able to get quality learning and teaching like other schools in urban areas. As part of the e-learning programme, we have decided to target rural schools.” 

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