Wireless internet for Northern Cape schools

14 April 2014

South Africa’s Department of Science and Technology has launched the Northern Cape phase of its Wireless Mesh Network project, providing broadband internet access at 56 public facilities, including 52 schools, in the province’s largely rural JT Gaetsewe District.

Funded by the European Union and implemented by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research’s Meraka Institute, the initiative – part of the wider Broadband4All project – aims to establish alternative information and communication technology (ICT) infrastructure in rural areas countrywide.

Speaking at the launch at Learamela Special School in Kuruman on Thursday, Deputy Science and Technology Minister Michael Masutha said it was now “common knowledge that ICT has a positive impact on people’s lives”.

He said the government’s national broadband policy aimed to make broadband “universally accessible by 2030, at a cost and quality that meets citizens’ needs, including formal and informal business and the public sector”.

A Grade 9 learner from nearby Iketletso Middle School, Thato Kgosierileng, who started using a computer for the first time at school, expressed his excitement at having access to the internet.

“Now am able to search for information on the computer without having to go to the library,” he said. “With a computer, one can do a lot of things within a short space of time.”

A teacher at Learamele, Boitshoko Bannane, said the use of computers would expand pupils’ learning possibilities.

Education District Director Vuyisile Teise said the introduction of computers would improve the learning process. “The learners will now be able to download information from computers. Everything is now at their fingertips,” he said.

The department launched the initial phase of the initiative in Sekhukhune, Limpopo province and Ekangala, Mpumalanga province in 2010, connecting 212 public facilities including schools, circuit offices and colleges.

The project is supportive of the Schools Connectivity project, which is led through the e-Connectivity Forum and aims to connect approximately 27 000 public schools in the country. It is headed by Deputy Communications Minister Enver Surty and Basic Education Deputy Minister Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams.

SAnews.gov.za and SAinfo reporter