A mere 945 schools out of a total of 5 421 schools in the Eastern Cape have been connected with Information and Communication Technology (ICT). That means only 17% of learners, teachers, and principals have access to ICT at school, according to the response to a legislature question I asked Education MEC Mandla Makupula.
One of the ways to combat the structural poverty that the Eastern Cape education system has foisted on the learners of this province is through a massive internet-related teaching programme, to circumvent the failures of the current education system.
Although the MEC clearly highlighted the benefits of schools being connected in his response, the Department has never seemed to tackle the topic with much urgency.
In a motion brought before the House on 11 October 2017 and on 15 March 2018, I highlighted the need for schools in the Eastern Cape and young South Africans to have access to the internet. With the exorbitantly high cost of data in South Africa, most young, school going, South Africans are left without the ability to access the internet.
Millions of children and young adults who live in rural areas in the Eastern Cape often have no access to sufficiently stocked, well-maintained libraries or resource centres. This includes libraries within schools in the province.
In 2016, the United Nations declared access to the internet a basic human right. Internet access means access to information, learning and jobs. Internet access should be accessible to all young South Africans for educational or job seeking purposes.
All schools in our province should have WiFi connectivity available for learners, especially in the rural areas where many learners do not even have access to libraries.
In a DA-led provincial government, connecting schools to the internet will be prioritised as we know that ICT is beneficial to the educational development of learners. Equally, it is just as important for teacher- and school management development. ICT can be utilised as a platform for teacher professional development. Online curriculum support materials and teacher training tools can be provided to facilitate onsite teacher development. Online platforms will provide a space for teachers interact and facilitate knowledge-sharing.
In the Western Cape, a total of 1 236 out of 1 450 targeted schools were connected via the eLearning programme by the end of the 2017/18 financial year. The project also delivered more than 28 808 portable learner devices and has installed technology in more than 6 418 smart classrooms. WIFI currently covers every school, providing access to the internet at no cost to the school.
Key elements of the Western Cape Department Education’s eLearning programme include a high-speed internet connectivity, wide area network (WAN) linking schools across the province and local area networks (LANS) in schools that connect to the WAN.
The Democratic Alliance strongly urges the MEC to take action steps in supplying schools with free WiFi for learners and teachers.
Edmund van Vuuren
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