GDE opens R105m smart primary school

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Premier David Makhura and MEC Panyaza Lesufi try out the smart devices that will be used by learners at Menzi Primary School. [Photo source: GDE Twitter page]
Premier David Makhura and MEC Panyaza Lesufi try out the smart devices that will be used by learners at Menzi Primary School. [Photo source: GDE Twitter page]

The Gauteng Department of Education's (GDE's) ambitions to produce tech-savvy learners are on track, as the department opened another ICT-ready school in the City of Ekurhuleni's Tsakane community yesterday.

Menzi Primary School is the GDE's latest smart school, and is line with efforts to deliver modern facilities aimed at encouraging ICT adoption and skills development.

The primary school, valued at over R105 million, boasts facilities such as 33 smart classrooms, a grade R block with five classrooms, two smart science labs, two smart multi-purpose rooms, a library and dining hall.

According to the GDE, opening Menzi Primary not only addresses demand for schools in high pressure areas, but is also part of changing the face of township education.

Addressing community members at the official opening, Gauteng premier David Makhura said the school is an investment in the future of the country.

"The start of the school year is about laying the foundation for a better future. We are investing in education a lot, especially in township schools. The investment we are making as a country is in these children. These children are the children that will be independent and build their own homes."

Community protection

While the GDE champions ICT adoption in schools across the province, these efforts are not without their fair share of issues.

Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi previously admitted to ongoing theft incidents of smart devices, adding that criminals have set up syndicates in communities to steal smart boards.

Lesufi urged parents and community members to protect the newly constructed mega school infrastructure. "I am pleading with you to protect these schools. If you see someone vandalising these schools, report them to the police."

In protecting the schools, Lesufi continued, the community would ensure learners of Menzi Primary School have a shot at competing in the imminent fourth industrial revolution (4IR).

"These learners are part of the generation that will attend schools of specialisation. They will participate in the fourth industrial revolution."

He also noted his department will unveil two schools of specialisation in the areas of maritime studies and the motor industry to prepare for 4IR.

Preparing for industry 4.0

Last year, in its resolutions report, the ANC said introducing smart and paperless schools throughout the country would be a priority.

According to the ANC, all South African children must get equal opportunities in terms of infrastructure in schools in order to maximise the opportunities of the fourth industrial revolution.

President Cyril Ramaphosa will also reportedly "announce a major overhaul of the country's education system, as government tries to prepare the future workforce for the fourth industrial revolution".

According to City Press, in his upcoming State of the Nation Address (SONA), the president will detail how the state will roll-out tablets in the country's 23 700 primary and secondary schools, computer coding and robotics classes for pupils in grades one to three, and digitisation of the entire curriculum.

With Industry 4.0 in sight, the ruling party went as far as to set up a Presidential Commission on the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The concept was first announced by Ramaphosa during the 2018 SONA, and he then called it the Digital Industrial Revolution Commission.

Although members are yet to be announced, the commission is expected to co-ordinate the development of SA's national response through a comprehensive action plan to deal with 4IR.

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