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Can tech close gap for women?

Are ICT tools achieving their potential in the lives of disadvantaged girls and women in this country? VIDESHA PROOTHVEERAJH, country manager for Intel South Africa, explores the question.

Today we live in a world where information and communication technologies (ICT) are being used at an increasing rate to improve teaching and learning outcomes in our schools and tertiary institutions. But as we celebrate Women’s Day, the question we must ask is whether these new tools are making the full impact that they can in the lives of disadvantaged girls and women in South Africa.

There’s no doubt that women are increasingly asserting their rights to education and meaningful work in the new South Africa. Despite these massive strides, though, women still lag behind. Nearly 20 years after the dawn of democracy in this country, many girls and young women still battle to complete their education and to gain the skills needed to secure safe work in a competitive environment.

Even where women have caught up in education and employment, they often still earn significantly less than men, and are more likely to live in poverty. In many cases, this leaves them vulnerable to social ills like sexual and workplace exploitation, poor health, HIV infection, domestic abuse and even trafficking.

So what do we need to do? For a start, it’s critical that we work more closely than ever with private sector donors and government to ramp up access to high quality and relevant education, which helps our young women meet the challenges of the 21st century.

These challenges go way beyond basic schooling and computer literacy. Right now, the key challenge we face is equipping our youth ‚ especially girls ‚ with relevant life and work skills that can help them gain secure employment, forge meaningful livelihoods, reduce their vulnerability, and ultimately put an end to the cycle of disadvantage.

Meeting this challenge includes revamping curricula to include workplace skills and the use of new technologies. Make no mistake, putting technology in schools alone is not some magic silver bullet that will fix our educational challenges overnight. But it’s a critical building block in driving education transformation.

The great thing about technology is that it provides the tools needed to enhance teaching and learning and support student-centred learning environments. It provides access to information and content experts. Encourages collaboration and creation. Improves communication. Most importantly, it allows students to gain important skills using the same modern technology they’ll encounter in today’s increasingly connected world.

For this technology to make a difference, though, we need to ensure that our teachers become more effective educators by learning to integrate technology into their lessons ‚ thereby promoting problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills among their students. That’s why empowering teachers is a cornerstone of Intel’s global education efforts.

But even once we’ve integrated technology into classrooms in a way that engages girls with life and work skills and keeps them in school, bigger challenges remain. We need to drive changes in societal attitudes towards girls’ education, so that it becomes just as important for a girl to finish school as for a boy. We must create a network of support systems and role models that give young women a roadmap to succeed. Only then will we be able to say that we are really closing the gap for girls and women.


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