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Bridging The Digital Divide – Is It Working?

I came across a news Khanya Project logoarticle published by the Western Cape Education Department which speaks of their success in rolling out computers to all state schools in the Western Cape through the ambitious Khanya Project. When one considers the vast differences in socio-economic status which bedevil the education system in South Africa, this is indeed a remarkable achievement. However the article states that the installation of these computers will bridge the digital divide and it is with this sentiment that I would argue.

I do not believe that bridging the digital divide is simply putting in banks of computers in schools. The teachers in these schools need to be taught how to use these computers to go beyong the Google research-type project.

Are the pupils learning to utilise social networks in responsible and safe ways? The recent OuToilet saga would seem to indicate that many of our pupils do not have the maturity or online safety awareness to cope with the reality of a networked world where privacy is becoming a very real issue.

Are our schools allowing their students to use their cellphones as part of the learning process? See this for more on cellphones in the classroom – Mobile Phones In The Classroom

Do our curricula incorporate the teaching of IT skills beyond the basic usage of word processing? Are we teaching digital citizenship as a core subject to prepare our pupils for a world in which these skills are no longer an optional extra?

Do our teachers feel competent enough to teach these skills to their pupils or do they feel that they are in fact the ones who need to be taught?

There is so much that can be done at a very basic level with technology in the classroom. The Khanya Project’s investment into WCED schools should mean that the Western Cape should be leading the way in technology integration – but is it? Significant headway has been made and the folks at Khanya should be congratulated on what they have managed to accomplish.

However I would argue that all the investment in hardware and software will eventually come to naught if our teachers are not equipped properly and our principals do not have the vision or knowledge to make it a priority in their schools.