Gauteng education’s R59bn budget to bolster tech at schools

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Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi.

Despite becoming a target of organised ICT equipment crime syndicates, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) won’t slow down its introduction of new tech in its schools’ classrooms.

Tabling the GDE’s R59.7 billion budget for the 2022/23 financial year (FY), MEC Panyaza Lesufi yesterday revealed the department will continue to implement its paperless classroom programme.

Over the years, the GDE has championed skills development and ICT adoption in schools across the province via the paperless classroom programme.

The initiative aims to address educational needs in the 21st century by supplying electronic devices to learners and teachers, as well as enabling access to e-learning programmes, to digitally upskill and prepare the future workforce.

At the same time, classrooms are equipped with smart boards, computers, printers and other ICT equipment that is used in teaching and learning.

The GDE’s efforts, however, have been hindered by a series of robberies of computing equipment. Shortly after the programme was introduced in 2015, schools became prime targets, and criminals started setting up syndicates in communities to steal smart boards and other ICT devices.

No backing down

Lesufi told the hybrid sitting of the Gauteng Legislature that the ICT programme continues to be relevant, especially when one considers the learning challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic.

He explained the programme is in line with the GDE’s education roadmap, which acknowledges the potential ICT has in enhancing daily teaching in the classroom.

According to Lesufi, the ICT implementation will target two categories of schools: full ICT schools and no-fee-paying township secondary schools.

In terms of the full ICT schools, these will be the newly-built schools described as the schools of specialisation, as well as the robot operating system schools.

These schools, he stated, will have ICT solutions such as devices – for learners, teachers and in the classroom – preloaded with digital content and WiFi connectivity.

For the no-fee-paying township secondary schools, the ICT solution also includes devices for learners (grade 10 as the inception grade), teachers and classrooms. The devices will be preloaded with digital content such as e-books, multimedia and GDE freely available content, and a connectivity solution.

“The 2022/23 FY plans to build on the gains the GDE has already made,” he said. “In financial year 2022/23, the intention is to consolidate grades nine, 10, 11 and 12 by converting outstanding classrooms to be tech-enabled; that is, classrooms installed with LED boards.”

Turning to developing future teachers, the MEC commented that a hybrid model of training is in development. This will allow teachers to participate in training anywhere and at any time.

He pointed out that a post-training support process is to be initiated to ensure knowledge and skills gained in training are converted into improved classroom practice.

The interventions planned for 2022/23 will take all possible unplanned eventualities into account; for example, load-shedding, unrest, COVID-19 infection waves, etc, to ensure the learning process is not disrupted in any way during 2022.

Provincial guidance will be provided in several key areas to assist districts, circuits, schools, managers and teachers in the strengthened delivery of the curriculum during 2022.

Lesufi explained: “Besides subject-specific support, priority attention is to be paid to learning recovery processes, assessment practices and subjects with a practical component, including technical subjects.

“The utilisation of ICT and remote learning opportunities will be further improved by monitoring utilisation and participation, identifying user challenges and providing support to ensure optimal utilisation. In particular, teacher capacity to integrate ICT with teaching and learning practice will be prioritised.”

During 2022/23, the GDE also plans to intensify monitoring and evaluation of curriculum delivery, he stated.

“The framework focuses on accounting for, and the proactive auctioning of curriculum delivery support in key areas central to achieving improved learner outcomes – whole school improvement, curriculum coverage, completion of school-based assessment tasks and utilisation of resources. The findings of the monitoring and evaluation process will be directed to the relevant support function of the department for priority attention.

“School and teachers’ accountability will be prioritised and strengthened across all levels of delivery to ensure what we are reporting on is actually implemented. This is to be actioned via cyclical accountability sessions which rely on evidence-based reporting across the system.”

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