The Vodacom Mobile Education Programme, the first countrywide teacher-development initiative of its kind in South Africa, officially launched its Gauteng ICT resource centre in Sunnyside, Pretoria, on Wednesday 13 June 2012.
The focus of the programme is to improve instruction in all subjects, with an emphasis on maths, maths literacy and physical science for grades 10 to 12 – considered the most challenging subjects for pupils in South Africa.
The Gauteng hub, which is one of nine resource centres situated across the country, is expected to provide up to 1 400 teachers in the district with better access to quality teaching resources and ICT.
The Pretoria centre has been fully equipped with a computer room housing 50 computer terminals, educational aids, internet connectivity and training facilities.
The Vodacom Mobile Education Programme, launched in October last year in Midrand, is a collaborative effort by the Department of Basic Education, Vodacom, Microsoft, digital content provider Mindset Learn and ICT skills developer Cisco.
Together the project partners will ensure that schools, teachers, pupils and communities have access to ICT and the internet.
Vodacom has committed to supply content hosting and free internet connectivity for the next three years.
INVESTING IN SOUTH AFRICA
Speaking at the launch, Gauteng MEC for education Barbara Creecy said the project is an important investment into the future of South Africa’s children, the country’s skills base and the economy.
“It offers pupils innovative ways to learn about maths and science and also encourages pupils to be more interested in these subjects,” Creecy said.
With greater access to modern information and communication technology, the mobile classroom initiative can bring about a turnaround in the school system, moving education beyond textbooks and chalkboards.
“The project is an important experiment to learn how to mainstream the use of ICT in the classroom,” she said.
A SOLUTION FOR UNDER-PERFORMING SCHOOLS
She said the most important advantage of the programme is that it levels the playing field for schools. Through the programme, teachers can access the same quality of teaching material that urban schools have.
“It allows you to create equal opportunities in historically disadvantaged schools, and this is our central objective,” she said.
All the schools that are part of the programme have been flagged as underperforming schools.
The Gauteng Department of Education identified 20 schools in the area for specific teacher training in maths and science.
Creecy said the Vodacom Mobile Education Programme was identified as an important intervention in under-performing schools, where other measures such as teacher training programmes, Saturday classes for pupils and holiday camps have already been implemented.
However, she said only improving the number of national senior certificate passes is not good enough.
“We need more quality maths and science passes that will allow pupils to go to university and in time meet the skills needs of South Africa and the economy,” she said.
AN AMBITIOUS PROJECT
Speaking at the launch in October last year, Vodacom CEO Pieter Uys said that for the first time, cloud computing will be used to allow teachers to access vital content, teacher aids and resources to help deliver quality education.
Cloud computing uses a network of remote servers hosted on the internet to store, manage and process data, rather than a local server.
All the ICT resource centres are connected through a virtual private network to Vodacom’s head office in Midrand, Gauteng. This connection serves as a pipeline of information, connecting the centres, participating schools and teachers to the internet and to teacher training resources.
Uys said the project is one of the most ambitious and important projects yet to be spearheaded by the mobile telecommunications company.