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March 12, 2019

Ensuring a digital future for our children

By Xolile Ndlangana, Marketing Director, Boxfusion

During the annual state of the nation address, President Cyril Ramaphosa flagged the need to embed ICT infrastructure into our schools, starting with those schools that service historically disadvantaged and rural communities.

This indeed is a commendable goal, to see technology take front and centre in our syllabus will not only help reduce the digital divide in South Africa, but it will also help at risk children prepare for jobs of the future, jobs we can’t even envision yet.

President Ramaphosa flagged several practical steps that will be taken to ensure that this rollout takes hold in our communities. One of these steps is ensuring that such schools have adequate hardware to be able to learn computer skills, and how to navigate digital systems. Included in this pledge is providing every school child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks via tablet devices.

Beyond the nuts and bolts

This is a key step to encouraging digital integration in schools. However, hardware like digitized textbooks is just a tool, or means to an end, and not an end in itself. The children we are targeting are digital natives and any implementation of embedded ICT education needs to go beyond just the hardware in order to stick. If we want to make a tangible and long-lasting impact on our children, this strategy will require more than just computer literacy classes once or twice a week, or digital tools through which to learn existing subjects.

As the world moves towards a more knowledge-based economy, we need to re-examine the very syllabus itself, as well as improve teacher training in order to ensure that children develop problem-solving abilities that will secure their future. Studies around this subject matter show that when encouraging technological education in children, teachers play a crucial role.

Educating educators

Digital learning creates the potential for children to become engaged participants, rather than just passive recipients when it comes to their education. To ensure that this exciting digital rollout doesn’t fail, we must upskill and train educators to respond to emerging technologies and integrate existing digital tools not only into their classroom, but across lesson planning and instruction. This in itself means that we need to reconsider the very way we train teachers graduating from colleges and universities around the country.

Of course, this is something President Ramaphosa already considered in his approach to ensuring basic education in our country is digitally driven. Part of his SONA address touched on expanding the skills of educators through the Framework for Skills for a Changing World, while simultaneously introducing more technology-focussed subjects and specialisations into the curriculum.

While all of this will take time to rollout, we at Boxfusion are excited about the implications this forward-thinking approach has for our society going forward. By creating digitally-savvy and technologically-focussed citizens, we can see more homegrown digital solutions, like ours, coming out of South Africa over the next two decades. We can become a truly digital society when we focus our attention at the most basic level of children’s education, and ultimately become the digital forerunners, not just amongst SADC countries, but across the globe.