Tech education start-up targets Free State schools

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Pupils from Vulamasango Secondary School in Bloemfontein during the rollout of the Omang devices last year.
Pupils from Vulamasango Secondary School in Bloemfontein during the rollout of the Omang devices last year.

The Closed-loop Learner Network (CLN), a provider of digital education resources, plans to supply 20 000 tablet devices to no-fee schools in the Free State in 2019.

This, according to CLN, follows its pilot project last year, which resulted in the rollout of its e-learning tablet, dubbed Omang, to 1 000 pupils at no-fee schools in that province.

CLN says this initiative is part of a plan to place tablets in the hands of one million learners within the next five years, and is line with president Cyril Ramaphosa's call to improve SA's education system.

In the State of the Nation Address, Ramaphosa said government will equip every school child with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device over the next six years.

CLN founder Ajit Gopalakrishnan says his organisation works hand-in-hand with the Free State Department of Basic Education, which identified 81 no-fee schools facing challenges in terms of facilities and educator support.

Gopalakrishnan reveals the education initiative has also garnered support from organisations, such as MTN, Oxford University Press, Cambridge University Press, Shuter & Shooter and WIZZR Technologies.

MTN provides free Internet connectivity for the tablets, while CAPS-approved textbooks for grades 10 to 12 pupils are pre-loaded onto the devices. CLN, in turn, ensures high school pupils receive the Omang devices complete with textbooks, tutorials and online resources to assist them in their studies.

Gopalakrishnan says dedicated social impact funding from the private sector was essential to extend the initiative's reach across SA.

"This is not about giving tablets to kids. Our aim is to become the Facebook of education and to gain in-depth insight into the next generation. It's about seeing the human potential - and the business opportunity - in including the masses in the economic equation."

Speaking about the initiative, Dr Adriana Marais, quantum physicist and SAP Africa's head of innovation, says: "CLN's Omang initiative is one of the crucial projects around education and connectivity that will inspire the next generation of thinkers and make us proud to be human."

She adds it is important to support the dreams of young people, but tools such as science and technology are needed to make those dreams a reality.

Jendamark MD Quinton Uren notes: "Industry 4.0 is the perfect platform to solve specific educational problems and inspire hope. This tablet device can effect a major change in education. Here we can really change lives and the future of our country."

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