Education is one of the most important aspects for the overall economic, cultural, social and technical development of a country. Unfortunately, the educational opportunities for the underprivileged are often repressed and are of low quality. Years of isolation and marginalization of these communities in the past has led them to be isolated from the mainstream population.
The violence and unrest that has seized parts of South Africa due to the recent flares of social and economic issues is already hemorrhaging a country struggling to cope with the pandemic. There has been unrelenting pressure on a health system already grappling with the worst COVID-19 crisis on the continent – one that has already killed more than 65,000 people. This does not bode well for the country’s current situation.
Coupled with the advent of COVID-19, the conditions of community rural schools are likely to be impacted harshly as the disruptions has impact on projects and finances aimed at improving the infrastructure and conditions. We do not need to question what are these school conditions that beg for our attention because if we fail to fix our schooling system, the problems we face today – many of which seem insurmountable – will seem even more difficult to beat. Looking at the scale of the problem, many may simply give up in despair, but there is hope. have made it their moral imperative to be the leaders that cause the change.
A report done by Amnesty International published in 2020 stated that South Africa’s education system can be characterized by its “crumbling infrastructure, overcrowded classrooms and relatively poor educational outcomes” which in turn perpetuate the inequalities that we see today. The relatively low pass marks, particularly in the fields of mathematics and science, is often cited as one of the biggest problems, as it sets the bar quite low in assessment. This area of concern needs to be urgently addressed in the form of innovative and inclusive systems that enrich marginalized communities.
Software AG in partnership with E&T Minerals, Africa Teen Geeks and UNICEF with support from the Department of Basic Education will modernize the computer lab and library facilities at Tsiki Naledi Secondary School in Hendrina, Mpumalanga. The 4IR lab will provide technological and educational support to the students and community of Hendrina. The main focus of this project is to bridge the gap between what is currently being offered to rural communities and what is actually lacking or needed for the improvement and benefit of the aforementioned disadvantaged community.
Key in this, is the rich and unwavering commitment of the strategic partners in the upliftment and empowerment of disadvantaged communities. In this education development partnership, the DBE is responsible for the appointment and development of teachers in line with The National Education Policy Act, 1996 (Act 27 of 199) (NEPA) while UNICEF is a strategic partner in the Teacher Development Programme and in the 4IR Education Transformation. Africa Teen Geeks said, “we remain steadfast in this commitment and look forward to providing more support wherever it is required from us”.
Rural schools will be able to match affluent schools due to the greater use of technological tools. Primary school students at Tsiki Naledi Primary School will soon have a plethora of technological aids in order to prepare them for a digital future and workplace. The STREAM (science, technology, robotics, engineering, arts and mathematics) laboratory will replace the current under-resourced computer lab and library. Propelling the Grade 3-7 learners into the future through the implementation of laptops, drones, interactive digital boards and 3D printers to name just a few important learning tools that will be installed at the school. Teachers at the school will have an easier time educating the learners as they will also be equipped with the necessary knowledge to develop the current curriculum. The 4iR lab online tools will be helpful in complementing on in-person instruction—instead of a replacement for it—allowing teachers to focus more on engaging students and mentoring them.
The time reform of how the education is disseminated in order to achieve quality results for all and to combat entrenched inequality in the system is upon us. The Hendrina 4IR Lab project will cause immediate impact for the life chances of hundreds of young people in Hendrina and the future of this country.