Minister of Telecommunications” and Postal Services: Dr. Siyabonga Cwele (in absentia)
MEC of Education in Gauteng: Mr. Panyaza Lesufi (in absentia)
Group CEO of Telkom: Mr Sipho Maseko
Head of Telkom Foundation: Ms Sarah Mthintso
Telkom Foundation Trustees
Telkom Executive Leadership
National and Provincial Department Officials present
Principal, Teachers, SGB members and Learners present
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed my singular honour and privilege to be accorded the opportunity to be part of this important event, a day after the commemoration of the 8th Nelson Mandela International Day. It was launched on his birthday, 18 July, in 2009 via a unanimous decision by the United Nations (UN) General Assembly.
The Mandela Day, as we know, commemorates the lifetime of selfless service and sacrifice that President Nelson Mandela gave to the people of South Africa and the world at large. The day immortalises Mandela's "values and his dedication to the service of humanity", and acknowledges his contribution "to the struggle for democracy internationally, and the promotion of a culture of peace throughout the world". His life was dedicated to the building of a united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa and a just world order. It is therefore, a solemn moment to remember with fondness this colossal, a gentle giant and a humble soul. Mandela Day calls upon all of us to remember the less fortunate, the sick and, vulnerable so that we can remake our world to be a better place.
We do indeed owe to President Mandela and his generation of freedom fighters a debt of gratitude for the work they did at the great personal costs to themselves with no expectation of recognition, high office, and / or material gain. President Mandela during his lifetime rightly earned the title as the greatest liberator of the 20th century; hence the UN recognition of his birthday as an International Day.
Programme Directors; having paid my dues to the memory of President Mandela, let me fast forward to today’s event – the launch of the Telkom ICT Connected School and Supplementary Programmes. It is evident that Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are increasingly playing an important role in providing solutions to many of the challenges we face in delivering quality education. These are challenges such as ensuring equity, inclusivity, 21st century skills, and access to educational resources as well as learning opportunities.
Therefore, the continuous and valued contribution by Telkom to assist the Department in placing key ICT devices in the hands of our teachers and learners, has the potential to break the digital divide and indeed assist us in improving the ICT professional development of all teachers involved.
Programme Director, I must say this is an ambitious programme that seeks to fundamentally change the way we view the role of ICTs in teaching and learning. It is a one-stop shop programme that has as its overriding objective an improvement in learners’ educational outcomes in the FET phase through the use and integration of ICTs for both learning and teaching.
According to the project plan, it says the programme is a scalable three-phased strategy implemented through the Connected Schools and Supplementary Teaching programmes targeted at Maths, Science, and English. The programme employs ICTs to assist learners and teachers to improve learner performance in Grades 8 to 12. The model seeks to support government interventions already in place, that is the ICT roll-out in Gauteng Schools and in some parts of the Eastern Cape, by providing a comprehensive ICT education solution to enhance the quality of teaching and learning.
The solution includes – fast and reliable Telkom connectivity, 2 in 1 computer devices for learners, and a laptop per teacher starting with Grade 8 teachers. Each of the participating schools will receive a make-over to meet the 21st century look and feel with new furniture and a computer lab for 50 users.
This is a significant partnership to drive not only ICTs in the sector, but also to improve learners’ educational outcomes in gateway subjects. Telkom has always been a dependable ally of the basic education sector.
Over the years, Telkom has invested heavily in improving the fixed infrastructure of the schools, updated connectivity and investment in content and computer software and hardware. We see Telkom as a critical enabler in the ICT space to create the required skills for the economy of the future. Particularly pleasing, is Telkom’s singular focus on disadvantaged schools.
Programme Director today’s event is ground-breaking in many respects. We are launching an investment partnership of approximately R200 million in the next five years to contribute towards improving the quality of teaching and learning with a specific focus of Maths, Science and English in disadvantaged communities.
The focus on gateway subjects goes hand-in-hand with the ICTs investment in the sector through Telkom flagship programme dubbed: “Connected Schools Programme.” In this regard all beneficiary schools will receive high tech ICT infrastructure as part of the package. The programme identifies, develops and supports learners to ensure that they are aptly prepared for employment in ICT related careers.
The programme will be rolled out in two provinces, namely the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. The programme targets approximately 2 700 learners and will be implemented over a five-year period. It also targets about 120 teachers in both provinces.
Equally significant is the Supplementary programme to support Grade 8 learners through to matric to improve the quality of their passes. Part of the supplementary programme is an important focus on the psycho-social element, which aims to sustain the learners’ performance through support and understanding the effect that their home environment can have on their academic performance and life skills.
The second phase of the multi-faceted programme is the facilitation of post schooling support for the cohort of learners from the programme who have successfully completed matric and are eligible to pursue ICT related studies.
The last but not least is the facilitation of access to employment and enterprise development opportunities to learners that have qualified and are looking for opportunities within the ICT sector.
Today’s activation of this ground-breaking initiative namely the Telkom ICT Connected School is also in line with the vision of an ICT led education as spelled out in our developmental blueprint, the National Development Plan (NDP). The NDP states that ICT is seen as an enabler with the potential to speed up delivery, support analysis, build intelligence and create new ways to share information, learn and engage. The NDP says by 2030:
- ICT will underpin the development of a dynamic and connected information society and a vibrant knowledge economy that is more inclusive and prosperous.
- A seamless information infrastructure will be universally available and accessible to all.
To achieve the above as instructed by the NDP, Programme Directors, I am happy to report that South Africa has thus created an ICT masterplan through the Presidential Operation Phakisa programme. The ICT masterplan is aligned to the Department of Basic Education Action Plan to 2019.
The Operation Phakisa ICT interventions are focusing on providing an end-to-end ICT solution to schools through digital content development and distribution using offline and online platforms, provision of connectivity, hardware, teacher professional development and e-Administration systems. This will ensure that teaching and learning experiences match the needs of the changing world. This approach is supported by our assertion that “greater use of technology, backed by high-speed broadband, could open new opportunities” for teachers and learners.
Although the speed of the ICTs roll-out is not at the requisite levels, but there is some progress. Some notable progress so far includes the launch this year of a Professional Development Framework for Digital Learning which we developed in partnership with UNICEF. This serves to guide all teacher development stakeholders as we raise the bar on quality learning and teaching.
I concur with UNESCO that “ICTs can contribute to universal access to education, equity in education, the delivery of quality learning and teaching, teachers’ professional development as well as improve education management, governance and administration provided the right mix of policies, technologies and capacities are in place”.
In conclusion, I would like to, once again, to say thank you Telkom, and Telkom Foundation for this great leap into the digital future. The march to 2030 has begun. The NDP envisions a South Africa where everyone feels free yet bounded to others; where everyone embraces their full potential, a country where opportunity is determined not by birth, but by ability, education and hard work. Today, we are planting the seeds of this great future.
I thank you.