Heins Worst of the Education Labour Relations Council answers questions about the Teacher Laptop Initiative.
The laptops would end up costing in the region of R15 000 if taken over the five-year period. It seems they are overpriced. Is this so?
It is imperative to note that the monthly costs are not only for the laptop, but also add up to the total cost for the complete package.
The packages include the following:
- Connectivity (250Mb to one gigabyte a month), usually worth about R140 to R290 a month, included in the monthly package cost;
- The software — Office Enterprise, Adobe Digital Schools Collection and Presenter Package, and Symantec anti-virus — adds up to the total value of more than R15 000. The council’s laptop task team has managed to get all this for a total cost of only R668 covered in the monthly package cost;
- Five-year carry-in warranty; and
- Finance charges.
The task team has negotiated, exclusively for teachers, low prices directly with laptop manufacturers and connectivity suppliers. And if any teacher can find a laptop with all the above for less than that from one of our accredited suppliers, they should contact the council and bring the matter to our attention.
Who qualifies for the laptop subsidy?
Every public school-based educator employed in terms of the Employment of Educators Act and who occupies a permanent post qualifies to participate in the initiative.
The roll-out of the initiative will take place according to the amount of funds available to the individual provincial education departments. Government Gazette (GG) 32207 specifies that the departments will implement the allowance according to a preference list of teachers based on seniority. Our reference to “qualifying teachers” thus means “the first batch of teachers that the provincial department will issue letters to to inform them that they qualify”. This letter needs to be presented to purchase the laptop.
Where do I purchase my laptop? Who are the providers?
In line with its mandate to serve the needs of the public education sector, the council, in consultation with the department of basic education and the Combined Teachers’ Unions (CTU-Sadtu and CTU-ITU) identified 12 accredited suppliers for the initiative based on the requirements set out in the gazette and the criteria determined by the task team. As the teacher will be signing a contract directly with the supplier, it is important to note that these suppliers were identified through public engagement and not by tender.
The 12 provisionally accredited consortia/suppliers participating in the first phase of the initiative are Dell Latitude, Fujitsu, Hewlett-Packard, Lenovo, MTN, Pinnacle Technologies Holdings Limited, Sahara Systems, Telkom, Mustek, Vodacom, LG and Cell C.
The provisionally accredited service providers have identified outlets or one-stop shops where a teacher can buy the complete package (including the finance agreement). The provisionally accredited service providers have a good, better and best range of packages for which the maximum, all-inclusive monthly repayment will not exceed R390. Teachers can go to the initiative’s website or directly to the suppliers.
The process is not closed to any supplier. Any supplier meeting the requirements as set out in GG32207 and the criteria as determined by the task team can qualify as an accredited provider. The teacher is free to buy from any supplier of his or her choice but only accredited suppliers qualify for the stop-order facility on the teacher’s salary.
How much will I get as a subsidy?
The subsidy is R130 a month, which is taxable. The package will vary according to the make of laptop, the specifications of the laptop, connectivity, insurance, and so on. The packages will vary in price from approximately R250 a month to R390 a month. Teachers will have to pay the difference between the R130 and the cost of the package. It is imperative to note that the monthly costs are not only for the laptop, but also for the total cost for the complete packages.
How do I get the laptop? What must I do?
The purchasing of the laptop is a matter between the individual teacher and the service provider. It is up to the educator to decide where to purchase the laptop according to the directives of his or her provincial education department. Each province will determine its own roll-out programme, which may include issues such as the granting of subsidies according to seniority, availability of funds, and so on.
Educators should not rush out and buy laptops, but rather wait until their provincial education department informs them that they qualify.
The following process applies when a laptop is purchased:
- The department identifies and informs teachers who qualify;
- A written notification from the department is issued to the teacher;
- The teacher approaches any accredited supplier at an authorised outlet as identified by the supplier;
- The teacher has the choice of comparing the different packages offered by different suppliers;
- The notification letter is presented to the accredited service provider;
- The legitimacy of the letter and the identity of the teacher are validated on a central registry;
- Once the teacher chooses a package that will suit his or her needs, the teacher and accredited service provider enter into an agreement;
- The service provider issues the teacher with a certificate of purchase that contains all the information about the package. Everything from serial numbers to connectivity is captured. The certificate is accompanied by a unique number that will be verified on the central registry;
- The teacher will be required to sign a code of conduct;
- The certificate serves as proof of purchase and will be used to activate the teacher’s email account. It will also be forwarded to the department to enable the allowance and the monthly stop order for the repayments.
Can I buy the laptop for cash and will I still qualify for the subsidy?
Yes. If a teacher buys a laptop for cash from an accredited provider and it complies with the specifications of Government Gazette 32207, the teacher will still qualify for the allowance.
But there will still be monthly costs involved relating to insurance and connectivity, as these are some of the prerequisites determined by the gazette.
I have never used a laptop before. Will I be offered training?
Yes. It is imperative that teachers be properly trained to use the laptops and the accompanying applications to their fullest capacity, ultimately to ensure quality learning and teaching in the classroom.
To this extent, the strategic partners to the initiative are investing time and resources for the training and development of teachers in information and communication technologies and computer literacy. A committee has been established for this and, with our strategic partners, a training and development strategy has been formulated.
The strategic partners to the initiative are the software suppliers Microsoft, Symantec and Adobe, as well as Cisco Systems, Intel, SchoolNet and Mindset, who are investing in the initiative for the professional development and training of teachers.