Sedgars and Rea Ruta School Principal
Siyafunda Community Technology Centre Senior Management
Business Sector Partners
Parents and Learners
Ladies and Gentlemen
It gives me a great pleasure to be part of this event today – the launch of Community Knowledge Centre and School Computer LAB.
This launch marks a giant leap towards making Information and Communications Technology (ICT) part and parcel of everyday life in the teaching and learning environment. ICT technologies are no longer nice to have but integral tools of learning and teaching in the 21st century.
I am heartened by this school progress in the era of ICT. As we understand it the beneficiaries will be 162 school learners. The ICT Lab also has the MATHS Khan Academy programme in English and local languages. The starting point obviously will be basic computer and digital literacy.
Particularly pleasing is the range of partners that are part of this ICT revolution. These include in no particular order of preference SAP, CISCO, INTEL, MICROSOFT, HCL (INDIA), JASA, and N2 (NEOTEL/NIIT). These technological giants not only provide the educational content, but also training programmes including train the trainers, capacity building and technical support for this project.
As Basic Education Department, we applaud this initiative. An investment in knowledge by a range of partners is always welcomed with open hands as we firmly hold a view that education is a societal issue.
We are also pleased that this initiative also envisages skilling of the youth, the unemployed, women, and people with disabilities, thereby making them employable and alleviating unemployment by networking with recruitment agencies, government agencies and businesses, thus becoming an enabler for job creation. This is truly revolutionary as it literally brings ICT to the communities.
I personally want to assure all partners that their investment of Three Hundred Thousand odd rands is an investment into the future of our country as a whole.
Equally ground-breaking is that this is no ordinary computer lab but a fully-fledged cutting edge ICT platform providing a 3D virtual learning environment (3DVLE) and extends this by providing an online 3D constructed space in which students, represented by avatars (3D visual representations of themselves), can learn, create, explore, gather information and undertake research collaboratively and individually in their simulated virtual world. 3DVLEs are used for a range of activities including presentations, discussions, role plays and simulations, historical re-enactments, games design, dramatic performances, creative arts and business modelling.
This launch comes barely a month after we launched our own virtual school known as the UKUFUNDA Virtual School. This school offers a wide range of free and open Curriculum Assessment Policy Statements (CAPS) aligned learning resources that can be accessed on more than 8000 mobile devices - from low-end mobile phones to high-end smart phones and tablets. It offers access to tutors, counsellors, mentors, coaches, and librarians. It is more like having a virtual school in your pocket.
The school contains a wide range of digital resources, tools and applications that support teaching, learning and teacher professional development.
It is designed to enable Teacher Centre Managers’ to build functional, vibrant Teacher Centres’ that can act as hubs for teacher professional development and support
We are indeed Moving South Africa Forward through all these initiatives. Our ultimate objective as the education sector is no longer about universal access to education but quality education fit for purpose of the 21st modern and sophisticated economy.
Hence, it’s with this in mind that the Council of Education Ministers’ (CEM) earlier this year has resolved that ICT is to be one of key priorities for the sector to act as an anchor for the radical transformation of the basic education. We have come to the determination within the sector that ICT is crucial to improve the quality and efficiency of the system from a number of aspects including administration, e-learning and teacher training. However it will require an interdepartmental approach looking at issues of connectivity to implement our vision for 21st century schools. I am pleased to report that such an interdepartmental is in place led by the Presidency. Our main objective is to ensure that by 2019, all schools are ICT enabled and compliant.
To this end, the Department of Basic Education (DBE) is also working in partnership with the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services as well as Public Enterprise to implement a joint plan for rolling out broadband ICT infrastructure.
The attainment of an ideal ICT environment in our schools will require a clear comprehensive and sustainable sector-wide implementation plan; otherwise we are again destined to fail in achieving the e-Education goal of the White Paper on e-Education.
The recent sitting of the Portfolio Committee on Education also reiterated the need for an ICT in Basic Education Sector plan that provides a well-coordinated delivery framework with delineated roles and responsibilities of all stakeholders.
Programme Director to demonstrate our seriousness in this area we have already facilitated the connectivity of 15 schools, including 10 schools from Mpumalanga-Balfour and five schools from Limpopo (TV Whitespace project).
We also have a list 400 special schools that has been submitted to Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) to be considered for connectivity under the license obligation project.
Furthermore, a list of about 5000 schools has been submitted to the Department of Communication (DOC) to be part of the initial business case to the National Treasury for connectivity of both National Health Insurance clinics and schools in the 10 and 20 km radius of the clinics.
In the past, we must admit the work in the area of ICT have been scattered, uncoordinated, unfocused, and unsustainable hence limiting their impact on quality education. Frankly, the pace of implementing ICTs in the basic education sector over the past 10 years has been unsatisfactory; hence provinces are at different levels of ICT integration in education. The more affluent provinces such as the Western Cape and Gauteng have made significant progress in providing some of their schools with ICT infrastructure.
Competing priorities and a lack of adequate resources have limited the ability of the majority of Provincial Education Departments from effectively providing ICT infrastructure to their schools.
The support of the private sector and NGOs has been commendable in providing ICT infrastructure to schools, however many of their ICT initiatives were uncoordinated at best and unfocused at worst.
I am happy to report that such glitches are now slowly fading into the recesses of our brains as we leapfrog ahead in unison to deliver ICT in our lifetime.
In conclusion, I thank the organisers for having invited me. I wish you all the best as you continue to be trailblazers in the area of ICT. South Africa needs more visionaries like all of you who work on this project. As the Department, we are always open to joint initiatives and partnership. I am making an open invitation for further engagements.
I thank you.