An iPad a day keeps school absenteeism at bay

An iPad app that offers access to over 600 school textbooks, spanning 33 subjects in six South African languages was launched on Wednesday.

"The app offers access to CAPS-aligned [new curriculum] textbooks for grades one to 12," said Linda de Klerk, marketing director for ZA Books.

Fourteen publishers, including giants Maskew Miller Longman and the Cambridge University Press bought in to the concept because they said "making textbooks available in e-format is a necessity", De Klerk told a gathering at the Apple store in Johannesburg.

Downloading the app is free and schools can buy the titles by setting up an account on ZAbooks.co.za and ordering a book list on the website.

"The titles are a minimum of 25% cheaper than the physical title," she said.

The app offered interactive features such as a highlighting, sticky notes, and a free-hand drawing tool.

The procurement of textbooks for schools, particularly those in rural areas, has been tainted by delays and budget shortcomings in provincial education departments.

Last year, education rights activists took the basic education department to court three times to ensure Limpopo pupils received the textbooks they needed.

De Klerk said 180 private and government schools in South Africa have integrated iPads into their classes.

Some of the benefits for pupils were increased engagement with the curriculum, motivation, discipline, independence in learning and improved results. It had even been known to reduce bathroomvisits.

One teacher at Ndlelenhle Primary School in Gauteng said using iPads in classes reduced absenteeism.

"No one wants to miss an iPad class," she said.

De Klerk said teachers reported that they "felt like rock stars".

" … the last time they felt like that was when the first textbooks were introduced in classrooms."

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Victoria John
Victoria studied journalism, specialising in photojournalism, at Rhodes University from 2004 to 2007. After traveling around the US and a brief stint in the UK she did a year's internship at The Independent on Saturday in Durban. She then worked as a reporter for the South African Press Association for a year before joining the Mail & Guardian as an education reporter in August 2011.

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