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11 May 2020
We have updated our Coronavirus in South Africa dashboard to include the latest figures.  Confirmed cases have reached 10,652, and deaths are now at 206
Click here for the full dashboard

We're combining our usual monthly newsletter with this coronavirus update today. This month our focus is on the importance of the internet for education during the lockdown. 


Learning from the lockdown: the future of education

Thanks to the lockdown, children haven't been at school for going on two months. At schools with means, teachers have been using online tools, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and Google Classroom to hold classes. Some teachers have been using WhatsApp to post assignments and notes on class group chats. But this new level of teaching all leans on one thing – the internet.

With schools needing to find ways to use technology to teach learners, it has raised the issue of South Africa's preparedness for the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution. Many children don't have access to the internet at home during the lockdown, but even if they were at school, how many would have reliable access to the internet? And how many teachers are equipped to teach in these technology-reliant times.

SA schools and the internet

We looked for data on the number of public schools connected to the internet in South Africa. You'd think this would be an easy question to answer, but it was harder than we expected.
Click here to read our full story.

“I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but the school year is over. This is what the new reality means for your child.”
Professor Jonathan Jansen, the former Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State

Ten numbers

1.3-billion learners around the world are out of school because of Covid-19
112 728 tablets had been handed out to 4 695 public schools before the lockdown 
298 620 teachers have been trained in the use of information and communication technologies
60% of South Africa's households have access to the internet on a cellphone
10% of households have access to the internet at home
20 - 69 school days lost this year. Matrics have lost a month of school and younger grades will lose up to 14 weeks (the equivalent of a school term).
198 the number of days of the year normally used for teaching 
400 000 students are currently enrolled at Unisa, South Africa’s oldest distance-learning tertiary institution
1.1-million students are enrolled in tertiary education
30 the number of years the SABC has run the Learning Channel

Teaching under lockdown

There may be a problem with internet connections, but this is not stopping some schools from reaching out to learners during the lockdown. In April, News 24 spoke to several high school principals around Johannesburg to ask how they supported their learners. Strategies ranged from posting work on WhatsApp and Facebook groups to circulating past papers among learners. One school has sent out SMSs to families without internet to collect food parcels and education material for their children.

Despite the efforts of many schools, teachers admit they are struggling to get in touch with all their learners because some do not have cell phones or data. 

According to education officials and specialists discussing how to save the school year, the most important element is that no learner is left out because they do not have the technology for distance learning. At the moment, some schools are supplying learners with laptops and data for distance learning; while other schools provide learners with hard copies of the learning material

Back to school: no hugging and other changes

When schools reopen, this is what it will be like:

And now for a history lesson

Education has been a fundamental part of human development: from oral histories to the first schools in Egypt around 2050 BCE and Plato’s Academy in Athens. Some of the world’s oldest schools and universities still accept learners and students today. 

The School for Scribes in Samaria, É-Dub-ba  (3500 BCE), educated young bureaucrats. While Han dynasty governor Wén Wēng established China’s first public school Shishi in Chengdu (141 BCE). Shishi means stone chamber, and it exists today as a high school. The University of Karueein in Morocco (859) was founded by Fatima al-Fihri, a Muslim Tunisian woman who invested her father’s fortune into establishing the university. The university continues today and is home to one of the world’s oldest libraries. Oxford University in England (1096) campaigned for the translation of the Bible into the vernacular English. The University of Bologna in Italy (1088) became instrumental in establishing Medieval Roman Law.

University of Karueein in Fez, Morocco, Wikimedia Commons

One of the oldest schools in South Africa is the Lovedale Missionary School in KwaZulu Natal (1824). The school started by Scottish Missionaries was a semi-multiracial school where intellectuals such as Tiyo Soga, Thabo Mbeki and Steve Biko studied. it is now a TVET college.

Looking to the future

Historian Yuval Harari writes that because we have so much information available on the internet, the object of school should not be to cram more information into learners’ heads. To survive in the world of the future where technology and algorithms will play increasingly greater roles in our livelihoods: “You will need a lot of mental flexibility and great reserves of emotional balance. You will have to repeatedly let go of some of what you know best and feel at home with the unknown.”

Education: a timeline

1728 – One of the earliest examples of distance learning when shorthand teacher Caleb Phillips advertised classes in the Boston Gazette.
1873 – The year University of the Cape of Good Hope (later Unisa) opens. This university in 1946 becomes the first university to teach exclusively through distance learning.
1948 – The year the United Nations recognises education as a human right where every person is entitled to free, compulsory basic education.
1970 – The first US college without a physical campus, Coastline Community College, began offering televised courses.
1989 – The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child strengthens a child’s right to education based on four principals: “non-discrimination; the best interests of the child; the right to life, survival and development of the child to the maximum extent possible; and the right of children to express their views in all matters affecting them and for their views to be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.”
2004 –  The Department of Education publishes White Paper 7 on e-Education which requires that "every South African learner in the general and further education and training bands will be able to use ICTs confidently and creatively to help develop the skills and knowledge they need to achieve personal goals and to be full participants in the global community by 2013"
2014 - The Universal Service and Access Obligations framework is instituted, which requires network operators, MTN, Vodacom, Cell C and Neotel/Liquid Telecoms to provide 5 250 public schools with Internet connectivity and ICT equipment as part of their licence obligations
2015 – The start of the #FeesMustFall movement in South Africa following a protest over proposed 6% increase of tuition fees at universities.
2017 – 16 December, former President Jacob Zuma announces that all tertiary education will be free for all students with a family income of less than R350 000 at the ANC’s elective conference in Nasrec.
2020 – 12 April, 1.3-billion learners across the globe affected by school closures because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

– this newsletter was researched and compiled by Gemma Ritchie
Copyright © 2020 Media Hack Collective, All rights reserved.

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