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Teacher strike impact can be mitigated

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According to JOSEPHY NSENGIMANA, Director Corporate Affairs and Strategic Alliances Africa, the recent strike by teachers throughout South Africa has disrupted learners of all ages ‚ in particular matric students about to write their national exams. He does however believe that there are ways to mitigate this impact and an online curriculum is just one such way.

As the public servants’ strike comes to an end, after almost a month of disruption in the service delivery throughout South Africa, its effects will linger on for much longer in all sectors and particularly in the education sector. With classrooms left unattended during the strike, learners of all ages have lost precious days of instruction, worsening their opportunity to advance academically. This adverse impact is accentuated for the Matric students who are about to start writing their national exams.

This regrettable situation highlights the need for a public debate on ways to mitigate the impact of teachers’ strikes on the learners, as surely this is this is not the last teacher’s strike in South Africa. Let it be noted that teachers can never be replaced, however when they are temporarily unavailable measures should be put in place to allow the learners to continue with the learning process.

Having online curriculum available to learners could be such a measure. They could, with little supervision, be able to review covered material in the preparation of upcoming examination, such as in the case of the Matric students: and they can also go through the upcoming lessons thereby making it easier for them to catch up when teachers return to work. Portals such as the skoool.co.za is a great example of freely available education content that can be further developed to meet this need. The value of online content is not limited to the time of strikes but can enhance learning in any circumstances. Technology, particularly ICT, is fast changing every facet of our lives, fundamentally affecting they way we consume and create data. Our education system need to be transformed to take advantage of existing technology in order to equip the learners with the 21 st century skills that they need to succeed in the globalized knowledge based economy they live in.

Intel Corporation believes that young people are the key to solving global challenges, if properly equipped. Crucial to their success are solid foundation in maths and sciences, coupled with skills such as to think critically, collaborate and solve problems. That is the reason why Intel has invested more than a billion USD to help improve education in over 50 countries: helping teachers teach, students learn, and universities innovate. In South Africa, Intel has been working with the Department of Education in South Africa to train over 140 thousand teachers to incorporate technology in their teaching and thereby improve the quality of education the learners are getting. Intel also participated in the establishment of the Teacher laptop purchase program that will equip teachers with technology and is working with various authorities to properly equip schools ‚Intel donated 5000 Classmate PCs to various schools in South Africa. Furthermore, skoool.co.za, an online content for learners has been available to the South African learners since 2007. Intel also sponsors 3 computer clubhouses in Gauteng, which enables learners to have access to computers and content after school hours and this is another vehicle that can enable a continued and enhanced learning.

Education is a serious challenge worldwide and more acutely in South Africa. We cannot afford to let any disruption erode further the already challenged education that our learners are getting. Training teachers the use of technology to teach, equipping them with technology, and equipping schools with technology and access to online content will not only enhance the quality of education for the learners, but they would also mitigate the impact of a strike by teachers.

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