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Government makes provision for virtual learning during lockdown

Read time 3min 10sec
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (Source: Twitter)
Communications and digital technologies minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams. (Source: Twitter)

The departments of communications and digital technologies and basic education have joined forces, to ensure virtual learning is a reality during the nation-wide lockdown.

This was announced by communications minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams, detailing the interventions undertaken by her department to mitigate some of the impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on the education system.

As SA’s coronavirus infections continue to soar, president Cyril Ramaphosa this week announced a 21-day lockdown, effective from Friday, 27 March. The health department has, so far, reported 709 positive COVID-19 cases following the first case confirmed three weeks ago.

School closures were brought forward as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ndabeni-Abrahams said as the department charged with SA’s ICT agenda, it must determine how technology can help address the disruption caused in the education system.

In this context, a virtual classroom will be set up, she said. “Our children are sitting at home, they are playing [sic] cartoons; others are busy finishing food and parents are worried. Ours is to say, how do we make sure our own students at home can be in a classroom whilst they are in their comfort at home.”

The minister added the public broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC), has also availed a channel that will be dedicated to education.

This includes two studios where the broadcast of the virtual classrooms will take place.

The SABC has a long history of integrating education with TV, most notably the Learning Channel that was popularised by William Smith’s school tutorials on national TV.

The minister explained the educational videos will not be pre-recorded, but rather will be showcased in an environment where teachers will deliver lessons live in studios and via the virtual classrooms, teaching children like they would in a classroom.

GP steps it up

In Gauteng, the provincial education department has reiterated that various educational Web sites and additional e-content platforms are available for both parents and learners during this time.

For years, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has emphasised the importance of making online educational content accessible, so that learners can enhance their education at home.

Last year October, the GDEofficially launched its digital content and online assessment platform. The aim of the platform is to increase access to digital content as well as enhance opportunities for continuous assessment activities to support curriculum delivery in ICT-enabled schools.

In addition, the department says it has reached partnership agreements with DStv, Vodacom and Telkom, to broadcast various school lessons during the lockdown period.

According to GDE, the DStv partnership includes Mindset on channel 318, which will carry most grades except grade four to nine, and a pop-up channel on 317 that will carry content for grades four to nine, launching on 1 April.

All these channels will be made available to all subscribers, notes the department.

Gauteng education has also noted that due to the uncertainty in regards to time that will be lost due to the COVID-19 virus, it intends to commence engagements with the education sector stakeholders about the possibility of scrapping the June/winter school recess. “Once agreed and adopted, this positive gesture will go a long way in taking our education forward.”

The department lists the following as educational sites that learners and parents can access: education.gauteng.gov.za, www.skool.com, www.mathsisfun.com and https://za.ixl.com.

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