Change the world

29/06/2022

eSchools are the future – but what’s needed for tech-readiness in government schools is lacking in most provinces. A Nelson Mandela University academic and her team are tackling the problem head-on.

Organisational and infrastructural requirements for information and communications technology (ICT) are the backbone of a successful eSchool solution, says Professor Darelle van Greunen of the University’s Centre for Community Technologies (CCT).

The necessity for e-readiness and ICT capacity in our schools has been emphasised for years, with pledges from government in 2013 to deliver free broadband access to 90% of South Africa by 2020 and 100% by 2030 through its SA Connect campaign.

The goal of South Africa’s 2004 White Paper on e-Education was for every learner in the country to be ICT capable by 2013, and for teachers to use ICT to enhance teaching and learning. Neither have been achieved.

The Covid-19 pandemic re-emphasised the urgency of e-readiness, with learners needing to be able to continue studying from home.

The CCT stepped into the breach, helping to develop the eReady ICT Maturity Assessment tool, an easy to download app to assess and evaluate the e-readiness of all government schools in South Africa.

The app was developed in collaboration with the Department of Science and Innovation and the Technology Innovation Agency, with input from the Department of Basic Education (DBE). “In 2020 we used the tool in order to understand the level of intervention required to enable ICT-based education in government schools.”

Regrettably, the majority of South Africa’s approximately 26 000 government schools are not ready yet, so the digital tool was “a critical step forward to help our schools transition to a new era.”

To identify e-readiness levels, the team adopted a mobile solution. “At each school, the principal or an appointed teacher downloaded the app, which includes a range of Yes/No questions. This can also be done offline for areas with no or low connectivity.

“The questions determine the ICT readiness in terms of the school’s leadership culture, infrastructure, teaching and learning competencies and digital competencies.”

The CCT’s research, titled eReadiness Assessment Tool for Schools and authored by Van Greunen and Johan Botha (CCT Senior Project Manager) was presented and published at the IST-Africa 2020 Conference.

“If the Department of Basic Education and other government stakeholders take the assessments seriously and proactively address the challenges highlighted in the e-readiness reports, then we can begin to make significant progress,” said Van Greunen.

A crucial step was to identify and support dedicated and adequately trained ICT educators in order to strengthen the ICT readiness of a specific school and “embed digital technology in the educator sector of South Africa.”

“Supportive policy environments and vibrant technological innovations and implementation are required to achieve access to and use of ICTs in all South African schools. This would significantly contribute to the basic and higher education landscape and ultimately to employability.  The second phase of the project commences in July 2022, which will include an enhancement of the tool as well as the integration with current systems used within the Department of Basic Education.  It is envisaged that the tool will assist with future planning and budgeting as schools prepare to improve their ICT readiness levels.”

Written by Heather Dugmore

Contact information
Professor Darelle van Greunen
Director: Centre for Community Technologies
Tel: 27 41 504 2090
Darelle.vanGreunen@mandela.ac.za