How to invest in ICT in Education

How to invest in ICT in Education

Why support ICT in education? 

ICT is broadly supportive of education. It helps with the achievement of national education goals and drives teaching and learning, particularly when it comes to developing and delivering on the curriculum. It also helps to support the business of education, promotes whole-school development, creates value for stakeholders, and aids in the production of empowered digital citizens.

There are a few challenges facing schools, however, including a lack of sufficient funding or financial sustainability (it doesn’t help to have computers in classrooms if internet connectivity is not continuous and reliable, for example). The shortage of basic infrastructure and equipment obviously needs to be addressed.

While it is laudable to have basic computer skills, it is also vital that both educators and learners have the means to acquire more skills and become confident digital citizens. There can be a disconnect between the home and school experience of technology, and this can be driven by the cost of data, the lack of a personal computer, or the fact that 3G may be too slow for connectivity.

Rural schools and schools with special needs are also more likely to be left behind than urban schools.   

Examples of Intervention Models

  • School and Infrastructure support

    This model focuses on the provision of the computer hardware, software and infrastructure needed in order for learners to benefit from access to ICT. The focus is often on the rural areas of South Africa, where there is a critical need for learners to be provided with internet access, computers, tablets, and workspaces, in order to benefit from digital technology and gain access to the information society.

    Examples of school and infrastructure support

    Broadband Infraco provides connectivity in the Vhembe District
    In 2019, SA Connect Phase 1 provided connectivity to 1210 sites in the Vhembe District Municipality, out of a total of 6 135 sites nationally. 

    MTN SA rolls out Foundation School Connectivity Programme
    In the past eight years, the MTN SA Foundation has handed over more than 350 computer labs to schools in under-serviced areas. They have full internet connectivity and are equipped with educational material and curriculum content. The MTN Foundation provides functional ICT facilities at schools, teacher training, curriculum-aligned content, learner education in special needs environment through specialised equipment and digitised content.

    Telkom rolls out Next Generation Connected Schools Programme
    In July 2017, Telkom pledged over R200 million for a five-year programme to improve the quality of teaching and learning with a focus on STEM in disadvantaged communities. As part of the programme, it also provided ICT infrastructure and related support in the five high schools selected, in the Tshwane West Education District. In collaboration with the district office of the Department of Education (DOE), the Foundation’s pilot project supports Grade 8 learners through to matric and has committed to rolling out the programme up to grades 11 and 12. Each grade 8 learner received a two-in-one tablet device and each school received a computer lab for grade 9-12 to provide access to technology and educational content to the learners in the school not directly involved in the programme, plus connectivity of 100 gigabytes a month.
    Educators received laptops, in-depth change management training, and ICT integration training in partnership with Schoolnet SA. 

    Dell and SHAWCO launch ICT lab in Khayelitsha
    In May 2019, Dell and the Students’ Health and Welfare Centres Organisation (SHAWCO) launched an ICT lab in Khayelitsha. As part of its ‘Dell Powering the Possible’ programme, Dell invested around R600 000 on the revamp of the infrastructure at both this centre and one in Manenberg, providing hardware (30 computers for each lab), two servers and two projects with smart boards.

    Gauteng principals receive smart tools of trade
    In August 2019, in partnership with Vodacom, the Gauteng Department of Education provided 2 200 principals across the province with the latest Samsung Galaxy A30 smartphones.  The aim was help school principals to remain in close contact with the department to speedily resolve any problems, as well as share information on best practices with one another.

    One teacher, one laptop – Department of Basic Education in partnership with Vodacom, Cell C and MTN
    In June 2019, Vodacom supplied 389 teachers in public schools in the Makana sub-district with laptops as part of a DBE initiative to integrate ICTs into teaching. All Foundation Phase teachers have received laptops, with Grade 4 and Grade 9 teachers in the process of receiving theirs.

  • Supporting Teachers

    This model focuses on the professional development of teachers – their abilities, skills and capacity – as well as helping then with their teaching and learning activities and their administrative work. ICT is particularly helpful when it comes to content development, preparation, teaching activities and assessment.  

    Many teachers grew up with limited access to technology and find ICT adoption more difficult than their learners do. Less than 35% of South Africa’s teachers had been trained in basic digital and ICT skills by 2011. Interventions assist by equipping teachers with the digital tools and skills they need to teach and manage their duties. Teachers who have achieved high levels of competence in digital learning have also been recognised.

    Examples of ICT interventions in supporting teachers

    New Nation teachers master some digital tools
    Workshops sponsored by Microsoft Philanthropies have helped staff to use technology as a catalyst for change at a school that provides education to orphans and vulnerable children.

    INTEL ‘Teach to the Future’ Teacher Development Programme
    This worldwide programme provides free professional development for teachers to help them integrate technology into instruction to enhance student learning. In South Africa, provincial senior trainers were selected and trained, and education department officials were also trained. The programme was implemented in 1 000 schools in all 9 provinces. 

    MTN: New World Teacher training programme
    The MTN SA Foundation has designed the New World teacher training programme to meet the demand for teachers equipped to cope with the changing world by teaching subjects in ICT. The purpose of the programme is to equip teachers with the necessary skills and knowledge to implement e-learning successfully, with a particular interest in ICT education for learners with disabilities.

    Think Ahead SACE-accredited Professional Teacher Development courses
    Think Ahead offers a comprehensive professional development journey for teachers to allow them to integrate ICT effectively. They offer workshops that can be brought to schools and are available in half-day, full-day and multi-day formats.

    Schoolnet SA 2019 Digital Learning Conference
    In June 2019, Schoolnet SA 2019 ran a Digital Learning Conference at Lebone II College of the Royal Bafokeng in North West Province. This and similar conferences accelerate digital integration within schools. Schoolnet is the country partner for Intel, Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle and Google Education and local partners Vodacom, CSIR, Telkom, Sun International and Anglo Platinum.  

    TeaSterl: Educators' ICT infusion
    Teaching on a Shoe-String, eTechnology and Reciprocal Learning (TeaSterl) focuses on teacher support in rural settings. TeaSterl works with under-resourced and finance-constrained schools.

  • Supporting Learners

    Learning in the digital age is increasingly becoming an important medium for simplifying learning and supporting curriculum delivery. In South Africa, many learners come from under-resourced contexts where access to digital technology is rare or non-existent. Various education stakeholders have committed to increasing access to ICT for learners and teachers, in order to ensure that all students ultimately gain equal access and exposure to ICT initiatives that will equip them to match the needs of our changing world.

    Encouraging student engagement can be a challenge but various studies have found that ICT use greatly contributes to students’ motivation for learning. By incorporating digital tools and interactive resources, rather than the teacher simply lecturing on the topic, learners can do their own research and interact with the materials directly.

    According to Sharp Digital, at least 80% of South Africans do not know how to use, how to take advantage of, or how to manage the risks of digital technology. Digital illiteracy and inequality work hand in hand.

    Digital literacy promotes the development of skills such as content creation, critical thinking and evaluation skills. As the world becomes more technology-centred, these skills are essential in preparing learners for future employment prospects.

    Examples of ICT interventions that support learners

    Specialised Schools and Smart Classrooms

    Specialised schools aim to create a skilled labour force and focuses on ICT, among other subjects.

    Between 2016 and 2019, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) and the Information Technology Association of South Africa (ITA) have undertaken to spend R7bn on Schools of Specialisation, focusing on developing mathematics, science, engineering, sports and arts, and commerce and entrepreneurship at schools. It started with an R80m ICT school in 2016. In 2019, it opened two schools of specialisation, St Barnabus and UJ Metropolitan Mathematics, and the R105m smart school Menzi Primary School. Private sector intervention has also seen results – Samsun’s Smart Classroom and Digital Villages are making a difference in the lives of children who would not normally have access to learning about and through technology.

    Curriculum support

    In 2020, the Department of Basic Education will pilot its coding the robotics curriculum across 1 000 South African schools, kick-starting an initiative to drive digital competency within the education system. UNICEF and the Department of Education established the TechnoGirl mentorship programme in 2005 in order to identify high-school girls between 15 and 18 from disadvantaged communities who were doing well academically. The girls were offered mentorship in STEM subjects. More than 5 000 young women have received university or college scholarships as a result and TechnoGirl now operates in all nine provinces of South Africa. Ericsson has joined with the TechnoGirl programme to drive the Connect to Learn (CTL) project. Connect to Learn technology implements ICT in schools where resources are frequently poor. It helps to enhance access to teaching and learning resources in a safe, cost-effective, user-friendly way. Teacher training kits are available.

    Code for Change is an NPO that focuses on bringing coding into secondary schools. In 2018, it partnered with Microsoft to bring its CodeJIKA initiative to 60 schools across five provinces in South Africa. In 2019, Microsoft partnered with AI in Africa to realise the DigiGirlz initiative, which equips female learners with critical skills in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) fields. The bootcamps target girls from previously disadvantaged communities, aged 15 to 18. In the same year, the State IT Agency (SITA) selected five Free State schools to pilot its software engineering academy in Bloemfontein. The SITA School of Software Engineering aims to equip learners with software development, coding and other ICT skills.

    e-Learning Environments

    Telkom is offering a free e-learning service, called Telkom e-Education, available to its existing and new customers. The service, provided by Extramarks, is aligned with the official curriculum and goes from Grades R-12. The Extramarks learning app also assists learners. Vodacom e-school, supported by the Department of Basic Education, provides access to content for Grades R-12. The lessons are free on all networks and Vodacom customers don’t pay for data when making use of the Vodacom e-school library. The FunDza initiative further makes e-books available via 400 Huawei-sponsored tablets available at 61 Vodacom ICT resource centres across the country. Vodacom e-Learning equips educators with mobile technology to improve the classroom experience. MTN has digitised e-learning material to benefit not only schools with established MTN multimedia centres but also other schools and community centres nationally.

    The Gauteng Department of Education’s ‘Classrooms of the Future’ project has seen schools in the province go almost fully digital, with learners using government-issued tablets to access textbooks and notes, and teachers using Smart boards to facilitate classes. Learners can access all learning materials online, thanks to the department’s e-Learning Content and Online Assessment Platform. Schoolnet South Africa and Siyavula joined forces on a project to roll out maths and science eLearning services to Gauteng schools in partnership with the GDE.


Recommended Resources

  • Providing ICT in schools

    In 2016, the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services met jointly with the Department of Basic Education regarding the provision of ICT connectivity in all schools throughout South Africa. The meeting involved stakeholders like the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA), the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA), and other representatives of educational and network operations. The outcome of the briefing is outlined this Parliamentary Monitoring Group briefing.

  • Managing ICTs in South African Schools

    In 2005, the South African Institute for Distance Education (SAIDE) published Managing ICTs in South African Schools: A Guide for School Principals. This publication is based on research conducted into the use of computers for teaching and learning in South African schools. It indicates that one of the reasons why ICT projects in schools do not succeed is that principals are often not properly informed about what ICTs can or cannot do. This hampers their ability to manage the introduction of ICTs into their schools. As a guide, the publication provides useful information on how principals and senior school management can provide leadership in their schools.

Read more: How to invest in ICT in Education

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