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Saturday, June 15, 2024

South Africa’s success is rooted in technology as an enabler of education

Incredible strides have been made in education in South Africa over the past 30 years, most recently seen in the progressive matric results from the class of 2023. The educational sector still faces complex challenges that demand nuanced and comprehensive solutions. MTN South Africa has proudly led efforts to alleviate these issues over the past three decades and will continue to stand alongside government in the fight for equality in education.

In an ever-more digitised world, a major challenge for schools, educators, learners, and their parents are the lack of access to technological tools, software, and training. Aligned to South Africa’s National Development Plan, in 2019 the National Department of Basic Education made a critical pledge to provide tablets for every learner in South Africa’s 24 900 public schools. As part of our ongoing partnership with the department, through the MTN SA Foundation, we have assisted in providing close to about 5000 tablets to learners over the past five years impacting approximately 75 000 learners over the period.

But learners need more than that to thrive during any academic year. Ongoing support is critical, so education through ICT remains pivotal to our entire strategy at MTN SA, which believes the success of any nation is intrinsically linked to the effectiveness of its education system.

Since South Africans embraced democracy 30 years ago, the world of digital communication has not just bridged gaps; it has added new dimensions of freedom to our society. The digital revolution has opened doors and transformed lives. It has shaped how we live, work, and play. But most importantly in this context, it has not only shaped, but revolutionised how we learn.

With this in mind, and alongside our 30th anniversary celebrations, MTN South Africa has expanded its annual ’21 Days of Yello Care’ staff volunteerism initiative, which has been running since 2007, into ’30 Days of Yello Care.’ This year’s initiative is under the banner ‘Learn Today, Lead Tomorrow: Education for Rural and Remote Communities,’ aligning with our continuous commitment to the core belief that everyone deserves the benefits of a modern, connected life.

Across the length and breadth of our country, for 30 days, MTN employees will be engaging in social impact initiatives focused on schools in rural areas, leveraging technology to bridge the education divide.

MTN’s ’30 Days of Yello Care’ complements several ongoing digital education interventions by MTN such as the CAPS curriculum aligned MTN Online School learning platform which, in partnership with the Department of Basic Education and Siyavula, is already making a difference on the ground, in classrooms, and in learners’ lives.

The platform seeks to ensure that more than 1,6 million learners can use the power of the digital world to supplement and support the physical classroom. It’s a free online portal that provides a comprehensive digital curriculum for Grades R-12 and offers additional features like video lessons, assessments, and extra-tuition lessons for Grades 10 – 12 learners.

Platforms like this are critical to our mission as, as the COVID-19 pandemic showed us it is crucial to drive seamless connectivity and support to help improve learning outcomes, no matter how challenging the situation may seem.

We can also not ignore that providing quality education for all our nation’s children remains a serious challenge. Addressing South Africa’s youth unemployment remains a top priority  and it is imperative that the private and public sectors join forces to ensure improved outcomes for these children. The future success of our country will be dependent on ensuring that the youth are educated and can access employment.

ICT and e-education can play a pivotal role in alleviating many of these problems. But they will remain a challenge in South African education unless, understanding the multifaceted nature of these challenges, we leverage the technological advancements available to us to move towards a more equitable and effective education system.

With the Fourth Industrial Revolution at our doorstep, remote learning is possible in South Africa. Technology enables us to equip rural schools with high-quality educational devices than can provide access to a wealth of resources, make e-learning platforms accessible to all learners, and promote educational equity, meaning that students in rural areas can benefit from the same quality of education as their urban counterparts.

Connectivity can facilitate teacher training and professional development, ensuring that educators are equipped with the latest teaching methodologies and tools. It can also enable collaboration and knowledge-sharing among teachers, fostering a community of practice that can drive continuous improvement in teaching standards.

It is all very possible. And at MTN SA, we are working to ensure that all South Africans are connected to make this kind of progress real, but without further government and private sector investment, success is beyond our reach.

MTN SA remains committed to end-to-end ICT interventions and maintaining critical infrastructures in ensuring quality education and long-term education system growth. We will continue to target the priority areas and deliver the precise tools and resources needed by schools, teachers, and communities as we strive to help more children benefit from quality education as we look forward to the next 30 years of MTN and South Africa’s future, but the time is now to explore further potential solutions with all parties willing to listen.

Education is a societal matter, and schools reflect their communities. Understanding this relationship can help citizens, both corporate and individual, become active participants and protectors of their own schools, and the schools in the communities that they serve. For the good of all.

By Charles Molapisi, MTN South Africa CEO

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