By Takalani Netshitenzhe, External Affairs Director for Vodacom South Africa
Robust quality education is the foundation for South Africa’s future – it leads to job creation, a stronger economy and a brighter future for our youth – all critical for our country’s successful participation in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. This was the driving force behind Vodacom unveiling during the course of last year an education ecosystem to support and accelerate government’s Vision 2030 comprehensive approach to education. Through the Vodacom Foundation, Vodacom has long been committed to supporting education and we firmly believe that our technology is a critical enabler in this process.
Vodacom Foundation unveils education eco-system
In partnership with the Department of Basic Education, we pioneered a multi-faceted education ecosystem that looks at the interdependencies and interrelationships of Early Childhood Development (ECD) and schools, and incorporates teacher training, parents and local communities to significantly transform South Africa’s education system.
Little did we know at the time of introducing this new ecosystem just how important technology would prove in supporting education goals and continuity during 2020. The South African public education system has faced the greatest of challenges during this most exceptional year, with millions of school-age students and their teachers deeply affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdown. The global health crisis has proven the need for programmes to be aligned to ICT and this has allowed the Foundation to realise meaningful transformation.
We have had an opportunity to review the educational ecosystem, which has made significant strides and we are mindful of the fact that there are many factors that contribute to effective teaching and learning.
We have made significant strides in the six pillars of our multi-faceted education ecosystem
Each school of excellence is close to an ECD Centre, a Teacher Centre and a Vodacom ICT Youth Academy. Since December 2018, after making a R500 million (€27.2 million) pledge over the next five years at the Global Citizen festival to support digital literacy and the eradication of pit latrines, the Vodacom Foundation has spent over R33 million (€1.8 million) on infrastructure development at ECD centres and schools of excellence alone. The pillars below underpin the schools of excellence model:
Pillar 1 – Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centres: Vodacom Foundation committed to upgrading and renovating 15 ECD centres with the objective of engaging with the education sector in the early stages of children’s lives. To date, 11 ECD centres have been upgraded and renovated by decommissioning pit latrines and replacing them with proper sanitation. Vodacom Foundation has provided an ICT trolley solution and a mobile library to the centres, and Vodacom staff volunteers offered basic ICT computer skills to two of the ECDs as part of volunteering.
Vodacom Foundation’s ECD Centre in Sthandokuhle, South Africa
Pillar 2 – Infrastructure: The 12 schools of excellence – schools promoting and supporting academic excellence – have been provided with a fully equipped, connected computer centre, and received upgrades to their infrastructure, replacing broken windows and doors and fixing collapsing ceilings. The pit latrines have been eradicated and replaced with proper sanitation, and the schools’ security systems have been upgraded or installed. Vodacom Foundation has provided ICT support and will offer ICT training and change management. A Virtual Volunteering programme was initiated by the Vodacom staff to offer online tutoring to learners from the schools of excellence.
Pillar 3 – Teachers: The third pillar focuses on the critical training of teachers in collaboration with the Department of Basic Education (DBE). To date, 92 Teacher Centres have been provided with furniture, maintenance and support, as well as unlimited connectivity. These centres have enabled over 300,000 teachers to be trained on various ICT programmes. Vodacom has rolled out video conferencing solutions to all Vodacom-supported teacher centres to enable virtual learning and has deployed ICT volunteers to certain teacher centres and schools of excellence to offer ICT support and training.
Vodacom Foundation has collaborated with the DBE to support teacher training
Pillar 4 – Communities: This pillar focuses on ensuring that communities also benefit from the ecosystem. The teacher centres are also used as technology hubs providing internet access for communities. In South Africa, more than 1,340 female farmers were trained in ICTs at the teacher centres and 1,333 Youth Academy graduates were produced. The centres are introducing a work skills programme, which will focus on re-training unemployed Your Academy alumni, and 63 young people from the Youth Academy have been deployed to schools of excellence, not for profit organisations (NPOs) and teacher centres. Some of the Women in Farming beneficiaries are parents to learners from the Schools of Excellence.
Pillar 5 – Partnerships: Vodacom Foundation has continuously funded 13 NPOs for many years. The partnership between UN Women, SAWIF and Vodacom has seen over 1,340 female farmers being trained. The Foundation has received great support internally, and internal business units have been instrumental in the Foundation forming strategic partners with external organisations such as Google, Facebook and Amazon.
Pillar 6 – Learning Materials: Technology alone will not improve the quality of education – learning materials play a key role in providing continuous support to teachers and learners. In partnership with the DBE, Vodacom e-School has given access to quality digital CAPS (Curriculum and Assessment Policy Statements) aligned content to over 1.2 million learners across South Africa.
We believe strongly in the power of partnerships and collaboration to help address problems and challenges as effectively as possible. In fact, School Governing Bodies, principals and parents have acknowledged that ever since the roll-out of the ecosystem that they have noticed positive improvements in critical areas of the education system. Although these positive reviews are a cause of celebration, a lot of work lies ahead. We are confident that with support from our partners, we will accelerate the impact of this programme and thus help to transform the country’s education system.
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