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Learners Affected By The Cost Of Data

Experts and unions have suggested that the education department must provide more affordable data options for learners to access learning materials, but how can this be done? The department has to make data more accessible to more than 12 million learners in the South African public school system.

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The department has been directed by Minister Angie Motshekga to prioritise all special schools, farm schools and schools that practice multi-grade teaching. Mobile providers will be handling the connectivity of schools.

Moses Simelane from the Basic Education department said the department had already been working on improving access to data in all schools even before Covid-19.

"Free data will take us a long way in terms of going forward, as to how we can integrate ICT into curriculum delivery and even using ICT platforms for assessment as we are preparing ourselves for the fourth industrial revolution"

Professor Brahm Fleish from Wits University has suggested that schools use older forms of technology such as radio and television to reach learners who can't access data. 

"Radio is available everywhere in the country so we need to think very carefully about how do you use radio and how do you create a radio environment that can be powerful for learning?"

Fleish has suggested that radio and television directed at helping learners must be played at the right time of the day in order for the content to be seen and accessed.

"Almost all of our households in urban areas have access to television, we need to see it as an incredibly powerful learning tool, it's already established, everybody's got technology that makes it available in most households."

He said no other form of education will be able to do what radio and television do. 

This is why the Department introduced radio and television programmes this year during the lockdown. This includes Woza Matrics, a television programme for matric revision and other radio programmes hosted by leading radio channels. 

These programmes were targeted at giving academic support to learners during the lockdown.

Executive Director of the Independent Schools Association of Southern Africa (ISASA), Lebogang Montjane commended network providers like MTN and Vodacom for the data prices they offered universities and colleges for online learning.

"Both MTN and Vodacom came to the party. They both gave us reduced rates both for devices and data and I really do think that we as a nation need to do something quite urgently about the cost of data especially for education."

He said, unlike South Africa, his Indian counterparts did not lose any teaching time because data is more affordable in India.

According to a report by Cable.co.uk, India has the cheapest mobile data starting at $0.09. South Africa, on the other hand, has some of the most expensive data prices. 

The country ranks 148 out of 228, with the average price of 1GB of data at $4.30 (R69.61).

General Secretary of the National Association of School Governing Bodies, Matakanya Matakanye said government should intervene urgently to make online learning more accessible for all South Africans.

He was concerned about how the current grade 12 learners will be forgotten by the education system as they move on to pursue their tertiary education.

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