Tablets can permanently solve the crisis in education

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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