Basic education minister, Angie Motshekga, yesterday launched a ‘one-stop digital solution’ at Lemoshanang Teacher Development Centre in Atteridgeville, Pretoria.
Called TeacherConnect, the solution integrates HealthCheck app to provide early warning on any COVID-19 related symptoms to learners, teachers and parents. It also has a COVID-19 digital risk assessment and mapping tool linked to the department of Health to track and monitor potential cases. The app connects people via whatsapp – an easy to use and accessible mobile technology platform. TeacherConnect is a free, real time, interactive, mentoring and peer coaching platform.
It boasts four key features: daily screening, risk classification, verification and follow-ups through which schools can conveniently monitor and do daily symptom checks. The information generated during the check-up process is automatically fed into the dashboard so that school managers can intervene timeously. Teachers and learners can also login on the platform to field questions related to COVID-19 symptoms and risks.
The launch of the digital application was timed to coincide with the phased-in re-opening of public schools after a long forced break due to the coronavirus. As learning and teaching resume, it is required that all learners, teachers and non-teaching staff should be screened before entering the school premises. Those who are classified as either moderate or high risk are automatically entered into the Health department for tracking and tracing purposes.
Said minister Motshekga: “TeacherConnect is the one-digital solution for teachers and learners in the times of the COVID-19 pandemic. It would greatly assist in the phased-in re-opening of all public schools.” She added TeacherConnect “puts the non-pharmaceutical measures firmly in the hands of the schooling community, teachers, non-teaching staff, parents and learners.”
The HealthCheck app has been used successfully by other departments such as health and higher education. It is also endorsed by UNESCO and this according to Motshekga this confirms that South Africa is on the right track to support and empower the teachers.
The app is linked to a specific school with its own Education Management Information Systems (a unique, 8-digit number assigned to all schools by the DBE). This will provide an aggregated data of a school in a particular district or province so that school managers can be proactive and identify hotspots.
The re-opening of schools earlier in the year caused widespread concerns and anxiety among parents and teachers as they felt schools were not safe enough to receive the learners. They pointed out that not all schools have received the necessary materials and equipment required to prevent the spread of the virus in schools.
Motshekga is positive the app will allay fears of the concerned learners, parents and teachers. “We think it will give some confidence to parents and caregivers about all the different safety measures that we are putting in place to make sure that our children in particular, and our teachers and entire school community remains safe,” said Motshekga.
Teachers, learners and parents can access the app by saving the TeacherConnect app number 060 3333 to conduct a health check.