Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation drives 4IR skills in schools

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Mmabatho Maboya, CEO of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation.
Mmabatho Maboya, CEO of the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation.

The Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation is making strides to equip learners from disadvantaged schools with fourth industrial revolution (4IR) skills.

ITWeb recently interviewed the foundation’s CEO, Mmabatho Maboya, about the progress the organisation is making, as well as its ambitions.

The Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation is an independent public benefit organisation. The organisation says it provides a range of innovative interventions that develop education and small and medium enterprises for an inclusive, empowered society. President Ramaphosa is the chairperson of the foundation.

According to Maboya, the foundation appreciates the need to integrate ICT solutions in schools, especially with everyone talking about a 4IR-ready South Africa. In addition, she says, over the years, there has been significant growth in the development of technologies, by both big and small players, designed to create access to technology in schools.

“However, there remains a huge disconnect. We know the benefits of having technology in schools for our leaners – technology promotes independent learning, collaboration and communications skills, which are all important for our 4IR-enabled future.

“For the teachers, it improves classroom administration and helps with managing and supporting learner performance. We also know that for all these to work, we need reliable connectivity, educator buy-in and security, as well as ICT leadership and change management.”

Education principles

While all of this is important, Maboya says SA needs to remain focused and true to the education principles, which is to prepare young people to thrive in any future.

“We believe that to do that, we need a strong foundation in numeracy and literacy, especially at the primary school level. Therefore, our technology solutions should be enhancing those skills in order to close the inequality gap – not widen it.”

The Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation’s work in primary and secondary education takes place through its partner entities Adopt-a-School and KST.

Combined, Adopt-a-School and KST have worked in 537 schools, benefiting over a million learners, says Maboya.

“Through our partner entities, we are developing and piloting an information communications technology strategy.”

She points out the digital technologies that 4IR integrates and builds on are ICT in nature. “Indeed, an international gathering of scholars, reported on by the Journal of Open Innovation in 2018, described the fourth industrial revolution as ‘the continuation of the ICT revolution’.

“For our young people to be able to function and thrive in the world of the fourth industrial revolution, they need, as a prerequisite, to be able to use ICT. The development of our strategy has included ICT resource and skills audits; evaluation of ICT infrastructure and use, competency and integration; the piloting of resource provisioning, including hardware and software; the building of computer centres and tablet systems; and educator and learner ICT skills development.”

Maboya adds the objectives of the foundation’s ICT strategy supports goals 16 and 20 of the Action Plan to 2014: Towards Realisation of Schooling 2025.

ICT disconnect

Explaining the disconnect between local ICT developments and the conditions in the country, Maboya says: “Connectivity is an essential requirement in this era. However, most of our non-fee paying [public] cannot afford this necessity.”

According to a recent online report in the Financial Mail, she notes, 48% of primary schools in SA are not connected to the Internet. The same report also notes the requirement for dedicated and readily available technical support should there be connectivity and other technical problems.

“Where there is connectivity, its strength may be erratic, including high user loads. Where schools have computer labs, ongoing support is also essential, as the online system goes down regularly. If there isn’t dedicated support, the labs may lapse into dormancy.”

Maboya points out the lack of electricity at some schools does not allow for the use of technology.

Educator buy-in is another primary factor. “As reported from a limited survey of some of our schools, educators do not necessarily feel ‘excited’ and ‘confident’ about using technology tools in the classroom.”

However, she believes increased access to resources does not necessarily mean it would be effectively integrated into teaching and learning.

“We have found that educators are not proactive in terms of ICT integration and require to be motivated. It would seem that younger educators are more eager to use technology. Learners, however, have been observed to be intrigued and eager to learn and be challenged.

“Educators also indicate that they need more time in order to confidently integrate ICT in everyday teaching and learning. Educators forget their learnings and express a need for routine, structured refresher training as well as on an ad hoc basis, depending on their needs.”

Thus, she believes teachers need to be effectively capacitated to use technological tools, otherwise it becomes a factor for the redundancy of such tools.

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