Tablets can permanently solve the crisis in education

Gauteng Online saw the installation of 40 000 computers (25 in each of 1 600 schools) at a cost of R3.1-billion. (David Harrison, M&G)

Gauteng Online saw the installation of 40 000 computers (25 in each of 1 600 schools) at a cost of R3.1-billion. (David Harrison, M&G)

Because of what it could have been and the money and time lost in the process. ("Second bite for 'Gauteng Offline'?", February 22)

Consider these three sets of numbers:

  • Gauteng Online saw the installation of 40 000 computers (25 in each of 1 600 schools) at a cost of R3.1-billion (which includes both the provincial education department's R1-billion budget and the R2.1-billion contract awarded by the Gauteng Shared Services Centre to SMMT Online). This comes to a cost of R77 500 per computer.
  • A similar programme in the Western Cape, the Khanya Initiative, rolled out a similar number of computers (38359 computers to 1386 schools) at a cost of R530-million, or R13800 per computer.
  • By comparison, an Android-powered tablet PC today costs R1500 or less.
    We could supply each of the country's 10.8-million school children with a tablet at this cost with only 11% of one single year's education budget (R150-billion).

Connect these tablets to school-based wireless networks (with or without an internet connection) and you can say goodbye to the textbook crisis forever. Children would have individual access not just to a few books, but also libraries of books they can carry with them to homes where books are altogether absent, instead of spending an hour or two a week in a computer lab.

Rather than finger-pointing at the actors in this tragedy, we should question the project design and procurement processes by which the rich promise of technology to overcome historical inequalities in ­education has devolved into a tussle about who gets to install and maintain an overpriced 20th-century solution for a 21st-century challenge. – Peet du Plooy, Johannesburg

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