South African classrooms go digital

21 July 2015

A teaching and learning programme to create paperless classrooms in 375 high schools would start rolling out today, said the Gauteng department of education.

The programme is about combining and using a range of technology like interactive boards and mobile devices such as tablets and laptops with internet connectivity, to conduct teaching and learning. There will be unlimited data usage from 5am to 9pm.

Empowerment and responsibility

“A child of a domestic worker or a child of a gardener or a child of an unemployed parent will have a tablet in their hands,” Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi told Grade 12 pupils at the Grace Bible Church in Soweto. “Gone are the days where only those that are rich will have a quality education.”

The top three students in their schools would also be given a four-year bursary, he said.

“We are empowering you that when you finish your education and are given a form in a bank, and they ask you how much you earn, you will cancel that and say I don’t earn a salary, I pay salaries.”

He warned that social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and WhatsApp would not be allowed on the devices. Pornography sites would also be blocked. “With every tablet, we will get an activity report which will show us which sites you visited,” he told the pupils.

In numbers

“The department has also purchased over 17 000 tablets for Grade 12 learners and 1 800 3D LED interactive boards that are currently being installed in matric classrooms at the targeted schools,” said the department.

Over 4 000 classrooms were also re-furbished with new ceilings and specialised lights and blinds to cater for the lighting requirements of the interactive boards. The boards are integrated with the tablets to increase interaction between teachers and students during class.

Security risk

Earlier this year, tablets were recalled from schools. They needed to have additional security measures installed to stop theft of the devices.

“The devices have been fitted with trackers to ensure that they are traceable should they get lost,” said the department. All schools were also linked to police stations to ensure rapid response.

Lesufi said if a pupil’s device was being stolen, the student should not act like Rambo and fight the criminals. “Your life comes first.” In addition, if a matriculant did not return the device after the exams, the school would withhold the pupil’s results until it was returned.

“This tablet belongs to government. not you. But you are allowed to take pictures with your friends and family.”

The deadline for the completion of the renovations to the classrooms, mainly in schools in townships and rural areas, is the end of August.

SAinfo reporter