Beaming education to the nation

17 July 2003

Mindset Network, a new R225-million multimedia satellite television network, has been presented as an 85th birthday “gift” to Nelson Mandela. Mindset will tackle South Africa’s key educational and healthcare challenges – issues that are closest to Mandela’s heart.

It is the first time in the world that such a comprehensive, integrated multimedia approach is being taken to tackle these issues. All Mindset Network channels will provide content that can change lives, the aim being to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.

Speaking at the Mindset launch on Wednesday night, Mandela said the network was doubly important because it would also reach out to schools in remote rural areas. “It will make a difference to the lives of millions”, Mandela said.

The first channel of the Mindset Network, Activate, is currently broadcasting on channel 82 of DStv, targeting grade 10, 11 and 12 learners and educators and focusing on maths, science and English.

A time-tabled curriculum is broadcast in the mornings and late afternoons to allow for school and home viewing, and in the early afternoons for educators. Broadcasts run from 8.30am to 5.30pm on weekdays.

Activate encompasses the innovative use of satellite broadcast television, print supplements in the largest national weekly newspaper, the sunday Times, and comprehensive support material on the Internet.

According to Mindset’s Melanie Naidoo, the network does not just “dump” content into schools, but also provides the equipment, training and support for people to be able to access the content and use it properly. “These kits include a television, satellite dish, decoder and video recorder, and we even provide generators as a power source for rural schools”, Naidoo said.

The content is provided free of charge, and hardware and teacher training is also provided for free to economically disadvantaged schools.

Activate has been piloted in 300 schools and will be rolled out into 1 000 schools and 800 000 homes by the end of 2003. “Over the long term, we hope Activate will be available in every school in this country, as well as in other countries too”, Naidoo said.

A health channel will be launched in October 2003, focusing on HIV/Aids, and eventually broadcasting into 7 000 clinics and hospitals around the country, with information for patients and training for healthcare workers.

Next will be two more education channels, one for early high school, and another focusing on early childhood development and primary school content.

Mindset also aims to launch a livelihood channel teaching entrepreneurship, life skills and vocational training.

12 hours a day, seven days a week
The Liberty and Standard Bank Foundations, lead partners in the initiative, have committed R74-million to kick-start Mindset. Founding partners include the Nelson Mandela Foundation, Sunday Times, PanAmSat, Sentech and Multichoice Africa, while the SABC is a support partner.

“It is testimony to the great need for what we are doing that Mindset Network has been put in place in a year, including partnerships valued at R225-million, along with support from the government departments of education, communications and health”, said Mindset chief executive Ann Lamont.

Liberty Foundation executive director Hylton Appelbaum, who conceptualised the network, said: “We realised that two hours a day on TV was never going to be enough to make the necessary impact across all schooling.”

According to Appelbaum, SABC TV’s “The Learning Channel” has played a vital role in support the country’s matric pupils, “but we need to address the earlier years as well as the last two years of schooling. For this reason, Mindset Network will be available at least 12 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Shortage of maths and science teachers
“Due to the legacy of apartheid education, our challenge in schooling is that learners’ maths and science scores are among the lowest in the world”, Lamont said.

“While South Africa has many dedicated teachers, there is a desperate shortage of those that teach maths and science. So much so that almost 30% of learners are taught maths by teachers with no qualifications in maths and almost 40% of learners are taught science by teachers with no qualifications in science.”

Andile Ngcaba, director-general in the department of communications, says his department will partner with Mindset Network to deliver “the most powerful learning technology that has ever been seen in Africa”.

Dr Mamphela Ramphele, MD of human development at the World Bank, described Mindset Network as the “best comprehensive programme I have seen so far that addresses the key constraints to enhance the quality of education in South Africa.

“The teaching of maths, science and English using multimedia approaches, and embodying in it the social reality of the pupils in South Africa, will go a long way to building strong foundations for the futures of these young people.” reporter

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