- UCT will open an online high school in 2022.
- The high school will include blended learning micro-schools to provide safe learning spaces.
- The school has been dubbed one of the "most affordable private schools" in the country.
The University of Cape Town (UCT) has announced the launch of an online high school, with the first intake of students set for January 2022.
In a first for the continent, UCT announced that it would be entering the secondary school market with an online "aspirational school", blended learning micro-schools and a free online learning platform.
"The University of Cape Town is committed to playing our part in addressing the systemic challenges facing our education system. As a result, we have taken the bold step to launch an innovative online high school in January 2022, where the academic excellence of UCT can be extended to high school learners across the country," said UCT's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng.
UCT is partnering with Cape Town-based education technology company Valenture Institute to deliver the UCT Online High School. The model allows pupils to pace their learning and offers one-on-one tutoring from teachers and support coaches.
The blended learning micro-school model offers pupils a safe physical space with technology hardware, should they not be able to access the online learning from their homes. This model was piloted at a site in Mitchells Plain, but it was unclear how these micro-schools would roll out further.
Valenture Institute CEO Robert Paddock said the initial intake could accommodate thousands of pupils and continue to scale.
"We will continue to refine our model in Mitchells Plain. We plan to expand radically," he said.
However, the expansion would rely on funding from stakeholders such as the Department of Education, Paddock said.
According to Phakeng, the UCT Online High School has been designed to service South African pupils from a broad range of socioeconomic means, with a CAPS-aligned curriculum.
The school will open to pupils from Grade 8 to 11 in 2022, with the first intake of Grade 12 learners in 2023, at a monthly fee of R2 095 per month. This makes it, "... one of the most affordable private schools in the country", Phakeng said.
UCT is in the process of approaching corporate sponsors and philanthropic organisations to make bursaries available to pupils.
In addition, the entire curriculum will be made available for free on an interactive online platform called the Open UCT Online High School.
Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said: "This announcement is very exciting for education in South Africa. The personalised learning experience is welcome and in line with what more people are desiring. I believe that Covid-19 has shown us that education can be done differently, and whilst it will not be for everyone at this stage, it can assist in offering different options. I am particularly excited about the free online content, and have asked the Western Cape Education Department to consider how we could use this in our system."
UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe said the move to online is key to supporting the growing number of youth in the country. She added that there are currently 25 000 schools catering to 12 million pupils.
"The number of schools necessary will need to rise with population. We cannot build physical schools fast enough to serve Africa's growing education needs. We cannot train teachers fast enough," she said.
Admissions open on 21 July 2021. From January 2022, pupils will be able to enrol at any time.
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