A milestone day for e-learning in the Western Cape

Joint statement by Premier Helen Zille and Minister Debbie Schäfer:

Today is a milestone day for e-learning in the Western Cape. I am pleased to announce that today, the Western Cape Government signed a 5 year LAN (Local Area Network) contract with an approved service provider, Sizwe Africa IT Group (Pty) (Ltd), for the provision of LAN equipment and services to schools in the Western Cape.

The implementation of LAN in our schools is part of the Western Cape Government’s wider e-learning vision for this Province.  We want to provide learners with the opportunity to improve their educational results and to integrate them into the 21st Century world of work.

E-learning will enhance quality education by increasing access to quality ICT in disadvantaged communities, providing support for struggling learners, contributing toward teachers’ training and professional development, and improving management and administration at schools. It will also provide learners with the skills to participate in our increasingly technology-based economy in the future.

The e-learning project comprises the following:

  1. The linking of schools through a high-speed, real-time Wide Area Network (WAN).
  2. The provision of Local Area Networks (LANs) in schools.
  3. The refreshing of existing computer laboratories and the provision of new laboratories and technology rich classrooms (smart classrooms).
  4. The development and expansion of online digital resources that are made available to all learners, parents and teachers.
  5. Teacher training and development in ICT and the use of E-learning in schools.

The implementation of the broadband (WAN) is already underway. The WCG has completed the broadband infrastructure build at 460 sites, of which 344 are schools. This means that either optic fibre or wireless infrastructure has been installed at the 460 sites to date.

The WAN implementation will then enable the WCG to provide Local Area Networks (LANs) in schools. School sites will be fitted with a wireless distributed network (WiFi) for internet and inter-connectivity within a school.

The tender for the implementation for the LAN closed at the beginning of February with the final contract with Sizwe Africa IT Group (Pty) (Ltd) being signed today.

In addition to the implementation of the WAN and the signing of the contract of the LAN, the following has been completed or is already underway:

  1. Refresh of labs and smart classrooms – 123 subject labs and 126 computer labs have already been refreshed, as well as, 3 350 smart classrooms installed.
  1. Online digital resources – The WCED is sourcing and developing digital teaching and learning materials while also inviting developers of these materials to provide information on their products and services via an e-catalogue or portal on the WCED web site. The pilot design of the portal is live.
  1. Teacher Training and development – Teacher training in ICT has been a major focus area for the WCED in preparation for the roll-out of broadband to schools and the introduction of e-learning. It is critical that teachers and principals are orientated and trained in the integrated use of the new technology being introduced at their schools and incorporating it into the curriculum.

Over the past couple of years more than 26 000 teachers in the Western Cape have had some training exposure to ICT. This year the WCED has presented a number of training sessions for principals, with specific training for teachers receiving smart classrooms, over and above on-going voluntary training for teachers.

Training of educators began in January at the Cape Teaching and Leadership Institute and will continue to be a primary focus area of the WCED’s teacher training budget in this financial year.

This year, training has included:

  • Basic Training for educators on how the smart classroom technology works.
  • Sessions with principals so as to provide them with tools to ensure that the technology is utilised and that it is sustained.
  • Content development courses focusing on developing skills to produce content for lessons for the teacher, by the teacher.
  • Courses for educators on basic ICT skills.

From August 2015 onward, we will be introducing a course which is aimed at providing teachers with a deep understanding on the nature of e-Learning and e-Teaching and the role that technology can play. It will focus on teachers producing e-lessons, and will be applicable to all subjects.

The WCED is also planning pilot projects to test effective ways of using the latest technology and will work with teachers who already provide examples of best practice to ensure that the province makes the most of this opportunity.

We will also continue to work with the private sector in order to expand this project even further and encourage them to invest in individual schools. They can invest in a range of areas, from the LAN, a “Smart Classroom” or “Lab Refresh” and devices at one or more of our schools.

The MTN SA Foundation is the first private sector company to come on board to assist. They have already refreshed the labs of 10 Quintile 4 schools in some of our poorest areas. The MTN SA Foundation has also pledged to refresh an additional 5 computer labs in 2016.

We would like to take this opportunity to thank MTN for their contribution and commitment to education. This is another outstanding example of how public-private partnerships can enable us to make things “Better Together” for the benefit of our learners and our country.

Today, Premier Helen Zille and Minister Debbie Schäfer officially handed over a fully equipped computer lab to Grassdale High School which was donated to the school by MTN.

The laboratory consists of 21 workstations, a multi-functional printer, an inter-active white board, data projector, router, data card for connectivity, external antenna to boost network connection, subsidised internet connectivity for 24 months and curriculum based software.

“A number of schools in the Western Cape still have limited resources and a lack basic infrastructure. We hope to address some of these challenges and take learning to the next level through the MTN SA Foundation’s School Connectivity Programme.” said Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, General Manager of the MTN SA Foundation.

We would like to appeal to other companies to follow the example of MTN in helping us to achieve our e-learning vision so that as many learners as possible are provided with access to a technology platform that gives them with the opportunity to improve their educational results and to integrate them into the 21st Century world of work.