Using Telkom’s resources and ICT capabilities, the Telkom Foundation drives structured sustainable development programmes in the areas of education, health and social welfare. It has a long-term commitment to improving the quality of STEM education, with a special focus on foundation levels.
Some of their areas of development are:
- A focus on ICT in schools
- An integrated ICT programme: addressing cyber safety
- The Cyber Safety Ambassadors initiative
- A refined ICT Schools Model
- A resource for keeping families safe online
The Telkom Foundation, established in 1998 and registered as a trust in 2002, has a proud history of contributing to the upliftment and transformation of disadvantaged communities in South Africa. Using Telkom’s resources and ICT capabilities, the Foundation drives structured sustainable development programmes in the areas of education, health and social welfare.
Over the years, the Foundation has focused on its long-term commitment to improving education and, while it continues to support various social development programmes throughout the country, the majority of its funding is channelled into education programmes. In particular, the Foundation is committed to working with the government, the private sector and education institutions to improve the quality of STEM education at foundation levels.
A focus on ICT in schools
The Foundation supports education from three perspectives: teacher development; learner support; and connected schools. For teachers, the Foundation has implemented the Educator Mentorship and Development Programme, focused on building educator capacity particularly in the STEM subjects. For students, the Foundation invests in various scholarship, sponsorship, bursary and mentoring programmes, such as its School Sponsorship Programme which identifies students with academic and leadership potential from economically disadvantaged schools and enables them to excel at South Africa’s top high schools, and its partnerships with the Make a Difference (MAD) Charity, and Rally to Read, among others.
For schools, the Foundation has for a number of years focused on the Connected Schools Programme. The programme, launched in 1998, seeks to elevate disadvantaged schools to the technological level of their more privileged counterparts in urban areas, thus bridging the digital divide and contributing to the improvement of education outcomes through ICT. The Foundation invests about R250 000 per school through the provision of computers, interactive whiteboards, and other ICT equipment. As part of this resourcing, the Foundation also implements computer literacy and ICT training to educators.
An integrated ICT programme: addressing cyber safety
Drawing from its experience in development within the education sector, and the results of a thorough review of the Foundation’s ICT programmes in 2015, it was realised that very little was being done to communicate the inherent safety risks to the children receiving the ICT equipment as part of the Connected Schools initiative, or to implement appropriate measures to ensure overall safety for the use of ICT in schools. Many learners are first-generation technology users who do not have parental guidance when it comes to establishing safety parameters online. Even for those who do, it is easy to share too much information, or embarrass or expose themselves to online bullying and other dangers.
In order that the Foundation’s ICT investments are sustainable, it has been deemed critical that an integrated approach is taken to the resourcing of schools, educators and learners with ICT capability, and that the beneficiary schools and learners are properly and holistically exposed to, and equipped to address, the risks inherent in socialising, playing and communicating online.
The Foundation has therefore refined its CSI strategy to ensure that, in addition to providing focused, customised ICT solutions to schools, it delivers on these educational gaps and commits to providing continuous, relevant training and support to its beneficiaries.
The Cyber Safety Ambassadors initiative
During Youth Month, in June 2016, the Foundation called on Telkom employees to assist in responding to this need for education in online safety. More than 80 volunteers, now known as Cyber Safety Ambassadors, were trained by Telkom’s IT security experts to engage youth on protecting their personal information online, ensuring respect and anti-bullying in cyberspace, and caring for their hardware and software, including the importance of passwords. The Foundation has also produced and distributed a booklet with information on all aspects of cyber safety: from how to update antivirus software, to guidelines on appropriate interpersonal communications and maintaining privacy.
The pilot Cyber Safety training workshop took place at Ikateleng, an organisation founded by the North-West, University and sponsored by the Telkom Foundation to assist high school learners with English, science and mathermatics. Telkom’s Cyber Safety Ambassadors visited the winter school, hosted at the university’s Vaal campus, where they engaged nearly 300 grade 11 and 12 learners, in groups of between 15 and 20 learners at a time. Telkom IT security experts were also on standby to handle any questions beyond the scope of the volunteers.
Upon completion of the workshop, learners reported having learnt valuable lessons in safe and appropriate online behaviour. The workshop will be conducted again during International Cyber Safety Week, in February 2017, with a second group of volunteers.
A refined ICT Schools Model
Having piloted the Cyber Safety project successfully in 2016, the Cyber Safety Ambassadors will, from 2017, be addressing the learners of the schools where the Foundation is rolling out its improved Connected Schools programme – the ICT Schools Model. In addition to the continuous training of both learners and teachers, the Model has been expanded to prioritise connectivity, live virtual teaching streaming, a streamlined learner management system, and the provision of consumer electronic devices. The Model is being driven in partnership with the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), and has been designed to align with the requirements of the GDE. It will be piloted in five high schools in Tshwane West.
A resource for keeping families safe online
The South African Government, Google South Africa and the UN Children’s Fund (Unicef) launched the South African version of the Google Online Family Safety Centre in 2012. The website www.google.co.za/safetycentre/family, which the Telkom Foundation regularly refers families to, is available in English, isiZulu and Afrikaans, and aims to assist parents and caregivers to support their children in navigating the internet safely. It also provides a platform for reporting inappropriate online content.
This site formed part of the Online Child Safety Campaign, launched by Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, as part of a campaign in schools and communities to train parents, teachers and children on how to stay safe online. Speaking at the launch, Xingwana said that social networks were central to the day-to-day lives of many young people, and it was important for parents to have regular, open discussions with their children about their experiences on the internet. She encouraged parents to empower their children with information about how they could use technology responsibly and protect themselves from possible harm.
Source: Trialogue Business in Society Handbook 2017.