Education in its traditional sense will likely be phased out, at least in part, in the not-too-distant future as the educational landscape makes room for the convenience, efficiency and developmental benefits offered through online learning and the virtual classroom.
Added to rapid shifts in technology that have taken place over the last decade, this is evident from events in the last year and a half alone, when school-going children and students were compelled to stay home and access learning opportunities through online platforms as a result of lockdown restrictions.
It’s no secret the global pandemic dealt a devastating blow to the world in innumerable ways, while altering the way we live and work. In addition, COVID-19 also changed the way people – particularly young people – access and engage with learning materials. As a result, the need to extend access to online education opportunities and include e-learning as a standard feature in curriculums is greater than ever.
The Department of Basic Education has already expressed its support for boosting e-learning in South Africa on many occasions, and is making headway with providing young people with the tools they need, such as tablets, to access online learning opportunities.
And while this is a positive step in the right direction, ensuring learners across the country have a reliable internet connection is even more crucial in making the e-learning shift and empowering the youth with digital skills that will allow them to build sustainable careers in the future.
Improving access to education through connectivity
Vuma, South Africa’s leading fibre infrastructure provider, recognises the importance of digital learning for the future of education in SA, and is one of the companies operating within the country’s tech and telecommunications space that is committed to bringing fast, reliable internet to the youth.
To achieve this goal, Vuma has set out to work with like-minded organisations and play an active role in initiatives that aim to make a positive difference in the lives of the youth through better access to opportunities. Over the last year alone, Vuma has worked with iSchoolAfrica, a South African education initiative focused on helping schools overcome a lack of infrastructure and other essential resources, to help transform the education landscape. This includes providing schools in underserved communities with mobile iPad labs, as well as access to its #EveryoneCanCode curriculum – a full coding continuum for Grade 1-12 learners, from block-based coding to app development.
Through its Fibre to Schools initiative, Vuma puts its philosophy of ‘because we can, we must’ front and centre, providing a free 1Gbps fibre broadband connection to every registered primary and high school located along its existing network deployment route. Once installed, schools can choose from a variety of Internet Service Provider partners that are a part of the schools’ project, to receive free uncapped internet connectivity.
L.U.C.C.A Support and Care Centre is just one of these schools. It was established in 2014 to cater for children with multiple challenges, including Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, visual and hearing impairments, neurological delays, autism, blind, premature babies, sensory integration difficulties, and development delays. Having access to connectivity allows the differently-abled learners at L.U.C.C.A to benefit from e-learning methodologies and digital platforms that make learning easier and more engaging.
Along with improving access to connectivity, Vuma is also committed to empowering more women to join the ICT sector, and hopes to achieve this by working with organisations like GirlCode, a non-profit that provides young women with opportunities to learn coding, gain practical development experience and access industry leaders. GirlCode’s many vital initiatives include weekend coding clubs, online coding bootcamps and ‘hackathons’ that are geared specifically towards girls. GirlCode also offers a 12 month Software Development Engineer Learnership, in an effort to boost digital skills among the female youth of South Africa.
“There is so much potential for greatness that’s just waiting to be tapped into among the youth of South Africa. Bringing that out of them, helping young people reach their absolute full potential and achieve their dreams no matter where they’re from, needs to become a passion for all South Africans,” says Lianne Williams, Head of Marketing at Vuma.
“It is up to us, not only as businesses in the private sector or the telecommunications industry – but as South Africans with ubuntu – to do whatever we can to help create sustainable, lucrative futures for our youth. Laying the groundwork that allows young people to access the resources that will one day get them to where they need to be, is a privilege for Vuma.”