The internet has the potential to transform education. By providing instant access to information and people, it has the potential to democratise students’ access to educational content; allows teachers to leverage advanced teaching tools; and eliminate geographical barriers. The irony is that where connectivity is most needed, it’s often the hardest to come by.

About one in three (approximately 8,000) state schools in South Africa don’t have access to computers or the internet, putting learners at a distinct disadvantage compared to their connected peers. And although the Department of Basic Education is expected to soon complete the process of digitising textbooks and teaching materials, a high percentage of the country’s education system is unable to benefit from these resources. 

In line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s vision to equip pupils with mobile learning tools (such as tablet devices) in all public schools, Deputy Minister of Communications, Pinky Kekana says: 

“We are saying that the fourth industrial revolution is here. The president also wants to roll out 14 million tablets in the next three years. By that time, our schools should be ready with connectivity. We are deploying broadband in schools so that by the time every pupil is able to get his or her tablet, the Wi-Fi is connected. I believe that delivering internet connectivity to schools will substantially improve our country’s schooling system. Internet connectivity is essential if we want our children to succeed in education. In work and in life, education with internet connectivity is possibly the single most important factor in overcoming poverty, unemployment and inequality.”

So what does a century school connectivity solution look like?

  • 24/7 connectivity for students in and out of school
  • Includes forward-looking internet speed requirements
  • Takes advantage of the mobile revolution with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policies
  • Considers economic sustainability and scalability, especially for indirect and other hidden costs such as support and maintenance
  • Incorporates recent technological breakthroughs.

Considerations for connected schools

  • Fully online learning requires that each child has a device and connectivity at home, which is simply not feasible at most schools
  • Concerns around the amount of time students spend in front of screens while in school, at the expense of student-teacher interaction, social collaboration and “soft” skills development
  • IT infrastructure resourcing and management
  • Teacher training and the curation of relevant educational content
  • Costly onsite technicians to prevent low internet availability and intermittent service.

Key questions 

  • What has been done to ensure students are connected not only at school, but also at home and in transit? 
  • And which governance, procurement and scalability innovations can enable this model to scale cost-efficiently to millions of students?

A robust, future-proof and cost-efficient internet connection for students is the foundation of a 21st-century education. So, how can South Africa’s education systems take advantage of the current revolution and improve learning – the ultimate objective of deploying technology in schools?

Connecting the country 

At Bundu NetworX, we specialise in expanding our network to inaccessible areas and providing internet to people who would otherwise have no access. Get in touch to find out about coverage in your area: https://bundunetworx.co.za/.

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