Vodacom has partnered with the Department of Education to roll out virtual classrooms in South Africa’s underprivileged areas. The project is geared to addressing the digital divide in the education sector that was highlighted by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The system is called the Virtual Classroom Solution, and is part of the telco’s larger education strategy, which seeks to transform education in the country. Both learners and educators can use this platform to connect with each other using third-party applications on devices the telco has provided.
The Virtual Classroom Solution initiative has so far assisted 6 schools across three provinces: Limpopo, Northern Cape and KwaZulu Natal. Its efforts include using mobile data to enable connectivity for the schools, and providing devices for streaming.
So far, 101 laptops have been given to teachers, while 1,360 laptops have been given to grade 12 learners in these schools. Vodacom has also provided 437 laptops to be installed in school common areas, like libraries, to expose the solution to learners in grades 10 and 11.
The telco says it aims to bridge the gap between education and technology and wants to include the most underprivileged learners who suffered from the digital divide in the education sector as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Learners from under-resourced communities were unable to attend class physically and without access to digital tools like their counterparts in privileged communities,” says William Nzima, chief executive of Vodacom Business. “This meant that these learners lost out on education during the lockdown. Our ambition is to make sure that no learner is left behind.”
Security still remains an issue, and secure safes have been installed on the school premises to store these devices.
Vodacom also manages a digital education platform, which is free for its subscribers and includes unlimited content for all grades in the South African education syllabus. It aims to give 10-million more learners the skills they need for the new digital era.
Minister of Basic Education Angie Motshekga said during the launch of the project: “ICT is important in the advancement of education and the pandemic has forced us to come up with digital strategies that can withstand any condition. The country can benefit from these opportunities that connectivity provides.”
In some of the schools, however, it was found the devices have not been used and were locked up because the teachers were unable to use them
“We do need to find a solution to the training of educators using these devices as this seems to be one of the greatest barriers,” said Motshekga.