In 2008, the Vodacom Foundation entered into a partnership with the department of basic education (DBE) to establish the Mobile Education Programme to provide digital literacy to learners, and teachers. The Vodacom Foundation has an annual budget of approximately R110-million per annum for corporate social investment projects, and just over 60% of the budget goes into education projects. At the heart of the foundation is the belief that existing technology can be an enabler to the provision of quality education.
The Mobile Education Programme started with school connectivity by providing schools with information communication technologies (ICTs). Today the programme has grown to include an education ecosystem that includes youth and early childhood development, parents and communities. As the world celebrates Teachers Day, Vodacom reflects on its partnership with the DBE on teacher development.
The objective of the teacher development programme is to provide teachers with ICT training so that they are able to confidently use digital technologies and impart digital content. It would be fruitless to have schools equipped with ICTs when the teachers are not skilled in using these technologies. Digitally empowered teachers have the ability to make the learning experience for the learners exciting. In 2019 the International Monetary Fund issued a report from research conducted that states that some of the main challenges of the South African education system include teacher development and management, including school management. So, teacher development requires even more attention than ever before, especially as the world is leaping into the fourth industrial revolution. The teaching profession needs to be remodelled to ensure that teachers serve as role models that young people can aspire to — the teaching profession should not be a profession of last resort. One of the variables to achieve this objective is to develop a digital savvy teacher.
As part of Vodacom’s commitment to provide digital literacy to the teachers, it connected 92 of the 147 Government Teacher Centres across the country. This is a partnership driven by the DBE. In nine of the teacher centres Vodacom has the ICT Youth Academy and provides ICT training to youth with matric certificates, in partnership with Microsoft and Cisco. Each teacher centre has an e-library corner and is accessible to members of the public. The teacher centres serve as a safe hub for young people and community members who need access to the internet. This year, Vodacom has included Google in this partnership to provide digital training courses on topics such as coding and cyber-bullying. The teachers will be able to benefit from these online digital courses to develop soft skills required for the digital era.
Since the inception of the teacher training program, 250 000 teachers have been trained in ICTs and 14 000 teachers were part of the diagnostic assessment for maths and English.
Training sessions and activities at the centres are as follows:
• Maths and science, ICT training, teacher development training
• South African Council for Educators training
• Community: parents’ school learner registration, CV preparation, job searching and application
• Youth Academy: Microsoft end user computing; Cisco ITE Essential (IT Support “A+/N+) & Networking: Cisco CCNA 1- 3
• Partners using teacher centres for training facilities: publishers, Microsoft, NPOs
• District meeting and grade 12 exam paper collection point
• Centre managers’ University of Johannesburg managing and leading with technology course
• Maths and science paper video session
• E-school activations
• Coding training for learners
“It is clear that if we are to break the cycle of poverty and advance the economic empowerment of young South Africans, we need to transform our education system through a sustainable ecosystem whose focus is not just on the learners, but includes teachers and other partners. We plan to accelerate our interventions in education in the coming years with more social partners in order to enable young people and teachers to enjoy the benefits of the fourth industrial revolution. We are always humbled to hear some teachers who have benefitted from the teacher training share their experience of how the partnership with Vodacom has transformed their lives,” said chief officer of Vodacom’s corporate affairs, Takalani Netshitenzhe.
Beneficiary story of Busi Mhlongo
Vodacom is proud to have taken a teacher to Vodafone, London in June 2017 — Busi Mhlongo, a high school teacher from a quintile 1 school in KwaZulu-Natal province. She said Vodacom has enhanced her teaching skills through ICT training.
According to Mhlongo, teacher centres create opportunities for educators to enhance their teaching skills, make learning interesting to learners, work faster and smarter and use the internet. But above all the training from the teacher centers has opened a new and transformative world that provides learners from impoverished backgrounds with great possibilities and helps to expand their horizons.
Mhlongo said: “ICT has impacted my life in many ways I couldn’t have imagined; ICT is a never-ending part of our lives nowadays, as it grows by the minute.”
According to Mhlongo, DBE expect educators to comply with flipping the traditional classroom into the new ICT classroom where word processing, spreadsheets, presentations and internet use have become the order of the day. “I make it a point that educators in my school are able to meet the requirements through constant ICT workshops done on a one-to-one basis,” she added.
After receiving training from Vodacom, Mhlongo commented: “Now teaching and learning has become interesting among learners and educators, as videos and lessons can now be projected for fast and effective learning.”
Some of the skills she learnt from the training include: word processing — used to type tests, do worksheets and produce learner reports. She’s now able to do spreadsheets — used to create marking sheets and for calculation of continuous assessment grids and learner results. Crucially, she’s also able to design databases used to extract important information, carry out web design techniques, and of late she complies with the South African school administration and management system.
To demonstrate how the digital skill training has benefitted her, she says where she used chalkboard notes and activities she now projects her work and makes electronic copies for both herself and learners. In the recent past she’d carry learners’ exercise books home for marking; she now takes home electronic copies on USB or CD. Lastly, whereas in the past she would write letters to fellow teachers, she now uses email. Crucially, personal benefits have accrued as a result of the training. For instance, she used to travel long distances to do banking, but now she uses online banking from the comfort of her own home.