Hi-tech help for learners


Quality education is undoubtedly vital for any country’s continuing success. And the answer underlying quality education is new information and communication technology (ICT) to take classrooms into the future.

However, these resources are expensive and, for a large portion of the education system, nearly impossible to come by without help. Vodacom is making a difference through its Mobile Education Programme, a partnership with the Department of Basic Education, by providing deserving teachers with ICT resources. Not only do the centres annually provide 1 555 schools and 15 500 teachers across South Africa with better access to quality instructional resources and ICT, there’s also a specific focus on maths and science, two of the most challenging subjects for learners.

The Department of Basic Education has identified the buildings, schools and teachers in each of the nine provinces while all the technology elements are provided by Vodacom and its partners, e-learning specialists Microsoft, Cisco and Mindset. Teachers from schools in the area surrounding each centre can now make use of the computer and internet literacy training facilities.

In each province 20 schools are identified to take part in Vodacom’s maths and science programme. Vodacom provides each of the 20 schools with a laptop, printer, SIM card for unlimited free internet access, a multimedia projector and an interactive whiteboard. Bongumusa Ngcobo (36), an educator at Hlahlindlela High School in Hillcrest, KwaZulu-Natal, is one of the educators who has benefitted from this programme. He has been teaching physical sciences to Grade 10 and 11 learners for the past four years. Bongumusa also helps to prepare Grade 9 learners for the subject with tuition in natural sciences.

While he loves teaching his subject and enriching youngsters’ lives with knowledge, he found the traditional blackboard method limiting when introducing the wonders of the natural world to learners. “It’s challenging. For years I tried to help learners to visualise the concepts but they struggled,” he says. Bongumusa used pictures in textbooks to illustrate concepts and relied on laboratory experiments to drive information home, but complete understanding often requires showing learners pictures of the processes in action to ensure key points aren’t misinterpreted.

Help arrived in the form of the Vodacom ICT centre in nearby Pinetown. Bongumusa’s school was nominated to participate in the maths and science programme and he and 34 other maths and science teachers from across the province attended short courses for a month to learn how to transform their classrooms teaching with the new equipment.

The new resources and the training have made a huge difference to his lessons, he says. Teachers now have access to a vast treasure chest of information on the internet, such as lesson plans, past exam papers and websites such as YouTube. These digital educational resources are hosted on the website www.digitalclassroom.co.za. Some resources are hosted by Vodacom, while Bongumusa has accumulated other resources over the years to help him with his own studies. The new interactive whiteboard in particular, which senses and corrects your writing and allows interaction with links and multimedia aids, is a great asset.

Bongumusa can see the change in his learners’ attitudes. They now clamour to get to the front of the class and to solve problems. He says the training was extremely useful and enjoyable. “It’s fantastic. The learners enjoy it and we receive interesting lessons out of it. It’s also wonderful how much faster we get through work than before,” he says. Many learners are now also more interested in science. “Now they have the tools, learners for the first time think they can get on top of the subject,” Bongumusa says.

This passionate teacher now has more hope for his learners’ future.

For more information on Vodacom’s educational initiatives go to www.vodacom.co.za/connectforgood.

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