Western Cape schools get online safety curriculum

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Charles Murito, Google Africa director of government affairs and public policy.
Charles Murito, Google Africa director of government affairs and public policy.

Google, in partnership with the Western Cape Education Department, has introduced an Online Safety Curriculum Guideline, which will be integrated into the province’s public schools life orientation syllabus for grades eight to 12.

The curriculum guideline was piloted last year and is already being taught in a number of schools. It is expected to reach 350 000 students annually, with rollout to the rest of the schools in the province expected to be completed by the end of the year.

The curriculum guideline is an interactive resource that allows teachers and students to learn about online safety, according to a Google statement.

It seeks to encourage learners to become responsible digital citizens and be future-ready, through educating learners and teachers on topics such as personal safety online, cyber-bullying, selfies, inappropriate content, the positive and negative impacts of social media, and more.

The guideline is compliant with the Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) and can be linked to other subjects such as information technology and computer application technology.

“In preparation for launching this initiative,Google has trained more than 500 life orientation teachers across the province,” says Charles Murito, Google Africa director of government affairs and public policy.

“We also held workshops with senior curriculum planners and e-learning advisors within the Western Cape Education Department, to build capacity on the understanding of online safety and refining the curriculum guideline to be CAPS-compliant.”

According to Microsoft's 2019 Digital Civility Index, South African millennials and teenagers, particularly teenage girls, are most affected by online risks, such as receiving offensive or obscene content, Internet hoaxes and fake news, and bullying and offensive name-calling.

The Online Safety Curriculum Guideline includes various modules, such as being safe online, being a respectful digital citizen, being smart online, being a responsible digital citizen and being future-ready.

Ismail Teladia,senior curriculum planner at the Western Cape Education Department, notes: “This is the first Online Safety Curriculum Guideline of its kind to be integrated into schools in SA at this scale through life orientation. This makes the Western Cape the first province in SA to fully adopt online safety content as part of teaching and learning – an achievement we are very proud of.”

“Protecting children online is not a problem that can be solved by any single player,” adds Murito. “It is the responsibility of government, educators, platform providers and other private sector players, civil society, caregivers, and the children themselves. Initiatives like this that involve multiple stakeholders are critical to ensuring we enable our children to guard their own safety online and become responsible digital citizens who can help others to safeguard theirs.”

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