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The Core Group concludes the pilot phase of its iSchoolAfrica educational programme in 13 schools around SA.
The Core Group aims to bridge the digital divide in schools, by supplying them with Apple Mac products.
The Southern African distributor of Apple products has concluded the pilot phase of its three-year iSchoolAfrica iGnite programme, which aims to bring the best available technology to schools in SA.
“Time and again we find that if you give children from different socio-economic milieus access to the same technology early in their school careers, their academic results tend to converge, giving children from disadvantaged backgrounds a better shot at a good career and improved life prospects,” says Core Group executive director RJ van Spaandonk.
Van Spaandonk believes that deploying substandard technology, such as netbooks and “special education laptops”, is adverse in teaching children about technology and perpetuates their economic disadvantage.
“Simply because you would rob them of the opportunity to learn to use state-of-the-art technology in their most formative years, something that is hard to catch up from later in life.”
A Core Group statement says iSchoolAfrica iGnite is a three-year programme of assisted technology implementation. Under the programme, schools are grouped into clusters of five, with four clusters making up a regional sector.
Each school is given a mobile classroom unit, which consists of 10 MacBook White laptop computers, preloaded with video, audio, Web site creation and picture applications, for the students to use. There is also one MacBook for the teacher, and one for the resident facilitator, the most competent teacher chosen by the school, and programme leadership at the end of the first year out of a pool of teachers. Other hardware in the mobile classroom unit includes 10 cameras, five projectors, a wireless router, and a heavy-duty case for use in the transport of equipment between classrooms and storage after hours.
The company explains that the equipment is configured in such a way as to allow a minimum of 350 students per week, in a particular school, access to the technology, based on certain time and capacity averages. In this way, a total of 1 750 students per week in a cluster gain access to the technology.
The Core Group conducted a pilot programme in 13 schools in disadvantaged communities in Gauteng, Limpopo and KwaZulu-Natal during the first quarter of this year. Van Spaandonk says the results of the pilot phase of the programme provided positive results.
Some of these results included confirmation of Core`s belief that children, irrespective of socio-economic backgrounds, could adapt to new technologies such as the Apple MacBook. The group says the programme can be an outcomes-based education enabler, with the technology being used as a tool for collaborative learning and the mobile classroom as an efficient way of deploying scarce resources.
“We wanted to show government that the three main challenges to implementing technologies in schools, namely, the scarcity of skills to train students and teachers in the technology, the lack of money to deploy the technology, and the lack of physical infrastructure, could be overcome through this programme.”
Van Spaandonk says the company envisions getting public-private partnerships to collaborate in investing money and resources in the programme. Private companies would invest R1.5 million for five mobile classrooms and provide a facilitator from their organisation, an investment which would run over three years. The money would go towards purchasing the mobile classroom, as well as ensuring it is maintained and has insurance in case of theft.
“It is envisaged that both the public sector, essentially government and its bodies, and private organisations, such as companies and NGOs, will adopt a cluster. Ideally, an entire sector is funded by way of a public-private partnership,” notes Van Spaandonk.