The failings of the South African Education Department to comprehensively support the integration of ICT in Education since it’s strategic outline for ICT and Education (DoE, 2004) have been counter-productive to the country’s growth objectives. Moreover, it has perpetuated inequality, helped to sustained poverty and encouraged a culture of nepotism and of tokenism. At its worst, such failure has fostered a criminal environment as the default option to young people facing high levels of unemployment in the country.
South African scholars have criticized the government for failing to support growth by maintaining “low quality education as a poverty trap” (van Der Berg et al, 2011). Despite the fact that much has been done since the dismantling of ‘Apartheid,’ progress in the education sector has struggled to keep pace with or learn from ICT implementation in commercial and industrial sectors. This has of course not been the case in South Africa’s private education sector, where ‘academies of learning’ continue to out perform their state counterparts, in some cases exponentially. The privileged few have been supported by fully engaged stakeholders, active school management committees and business partners who appreciate the long-term yields of capacity building and investing into future leaders. How is it that such vision and foresight is less forthcoming in the state sector? Can a decision about the future of education in South Africa truly be whittled down to a matter for funding models and balance sheets to decide? The consequences of a lack of ICT integration progress in state schools compound the existing social problems facing South Africa today.
The following facts are clear: poor education is a precondition to low employability; there is sufficient evidence supporting the link between low employment and the likelihood of crime; and finally, ICT has been transformative in those education systems where users are enabled and supported throughout the implementation process. The call is to South African leaders in education and to civil society from the grassroots upwards, to recall their childhood journeys through education and to re-double their efforts to ensure that today’s youth gain access to quality education using the technological resources that are increasingly free for all to access.
Department of Education (DoE). (2004) Draft white paper on e-Education. Transforming learning and teaching through Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) Government Gazette. No. 26734.
After reading a blog post entitled “Vote as if ALL our lives depended on it” I was inspired to share the following 3 basic steps to help political actors engage young voters in South Africa:
- Set up a Social Media Communication Team who knows their way around mobile platforms, instant messaging, texting, tweeting and posting…recruitment criteria must include evidence of being a good networker.
- Incentivise! More than 77% of young people aged 18 – 25 are “pay as you go” cell phone users. Spot prizes or even competitions offering airtime will attract and hold this age groups attention. E.g. “Invite ‘selfies’ which include a message about why you are voting in this year’s election”
- Finally, don’t neglect your existing database. Every one of your e-mail contacts has access to a mobile phone. Engage those who already support you to offer steps 1 and 2 above to their network of contacts.
Young people are not hard to reach, they’re a generation waiting to be found, but to engage them you may need to learn txtspk 😉
African born economist, Dambiso Moyo, presents an interesting case on the merits of Afro-Chinese economic relations. There has been much media coverage on this subject, mostly beaming cautionary warnings towards western boardrooms and democratic purists. Antagonists comfortably avoid the question “Could China be ‘good’ for Africa?” trending around China’s record of human rights violations and the asymmetry between the two economic markets.
Dr. Moyo answers this question with a resounding, “Yes,” (my interpretation). And it is this interpretation that led me to consider some of the lessons that could be learnt from the world’s largest education sector.
China’s population is 3 times that of South Africa, one of Africa’s leading economic countries, yet their teacher pupil ratio is 1:17 versus South Africa’s 1:35. Quality despite quantity, though this too could be disputed.
China’s traditional education style remains a present pressure that encourages academic achievement. Research into why British students of Chinese heritage outperformed their peers in primary and secondary schools found that Chinese families consider education a “fundamental pillar of their Chinese identity.” Arguably, this has also been the driving force behind China’s economic performance globally.
China’s ability to innovate and harness the advantages offered by technology is also cited as evidence supporting their progress and improvements to their education system. In the higher education sector China dominates with the largest single group of overseas students taking degrees in Britain and the US. Perhaps further evidence of their fundamental regard for quality education.
I am not suggesting a transplanting of a Chinese approach to education into Africa. A sufficient amount of sources can be found that would readily attempt to discredit the quality of education in China and warn against mimicking a Chinese approach. But there can be no disputing the significance of China’s increasing economic relevance and global progress. Chinese interests in Africa could even be viewed as a well-calculated trajectory for further growth. In the context of education and mutually beneficial relations two questions are worth studying: “Could Africa learn from China’s education system and what would the probable product of such an equation be?”
Chinese proverb: “A nations treasure is in its scholars.”
Development actors agree on the fact that education be part of the logical framework that corrects traditional norms which foster inequality.
MDG2, the goal to achieve universal primary school education, makes the case for this consensus. But the momentum caused by rapid pursuit of this target has created new problems for those with sudden access to learning. Where access has become incentivized or made free, young children continue to face problems related to overcrowded classrooms, lack of resources and reports of abusive teacher behaviour.
Despite a push by national governments to get girls into schools, traditional patriarchy continues to present resistance in Africa. In a cross-country review of more than 10 African countries Francis Hunt identifies pregnancy as a significant cause of teenage girls dropping out of school. Together these factors contribute towards pupils receiving an incomplete or poor education that fails to meet national and international employability standards.
Such failure is not only counter-productive to economic growth objectives, but perpetuates inequality, which in turn sustains poverty. In South Africa local scholars, supporting this view, have criticized their government for failing to support growth by maintaining “low quality education as a poverty trap.”
Primary school education provides the foundations required for knowledge and skills to become tools of change among the worlds poor. It is a short term solution. A quick win. But without the economic and political will to support initiatives with longer term, sustainable goals, MDG2 may simple be setting new learners up for failure.
Mobile phones and their impact on the economies and societies of developing countries has been popular discourse in recent times. The growth of access to mobile phones in Africa has been of particular interest to various actors. There are examples of how mobiles have been used to help market traders in Africa determine prices for their stock, of how health practitioners use them to find and advise patients and there are even examples of mobile phones used for the purposes of monitoring national elections. My research and area of interest is in how mobile phones can support education. I am new to blogging, so I hope to improve the quality of my online contributions over time. I humbly ask that the reader practice patience (and possibly tolerance). I do not intend to bog you down with blogs of statistics about mobile phones, though some may creep in. I do hope that these contributions will invite debate, comments and questions from all who are interested in the eradication of poverty and inequality through education. Below is a copy of my first attempts to find out more about what teachers in South Africa think about mobile phones (or cell phones as they are called in SA) and their place in Education in South Africa.
*If you are a High School Teacher in South Africa please follow the link to the Survey Competition where you can let me know what your views are about mobile phones and their potential to benefit or stifle education in South Africa.