Newspaper clipping – The Daily News – 28th July 2010

R68m laptop project lift classroom experience

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Education wants to transform text-book oriented classrooms to electronic format instruction to boost teaching and learning in the province.

A R68-million project has been unveiled that will see almost half of KZN teachers – 48 000 – receiving a laptop computer with internet access, relevant software and other multimedia aids, to prepare classroom lessons.
“This project will be monitored to find out how teachers are using the laptop and how it has proved to be an asset,” provincial education MEC Senzo Mchunu said at the launch of the initiative at Adams College this week.

Education officials believe that equipping teachers and school managers with computers will help improve year-end results and also provide immediate benefits to pupils.

The province has about 87 000 teachers and Mchunu said the department hoped to have stretched the rollout to all of them by the end of next year.
“If not next year, then definitely in 2012. By then all the teachers in the province would have a laptop.”
These include school principals, deputy principals and heads of department.

The initiative is being managed by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC) and involves suppliers that include laptop manufacturers Dell-Laptitude, Lenovo and Mustek. It also includes information technology providers Fujitsu and Hewlett-Packard, information and communication technologies (ICT) distributor Pinnacle Africa and Sahara Systems, Telkom and cellular network providers MTN, Vodacom and Cell C.

The department has also partnered with computer software developers Symantec, Adobe Systems South Africa, Cisco Systems networking academy, as well as Intel SA to assist with ICT interventions. Microsoft SA is also on board, as is Mindset Network, a non-governmental organization that has produced curriculum-aligned education content in the form of videos, printouts and computer-based multimedia formats.

Another NGO, Schoolnet South Africa, which promotes the use of information and communication technologies as a resource for teaching and learning, will be responsible for training teachers how to use the laptops.

The ICT package, which includes the laptop, will cost teachers R250 a month for five years, but they will receive a monthly allowance of R130 from the department.

Mahalingum Govender, the ELRC general secretary, said teachers would be able to take the laptops home to prepare for lessons. The software that has been installed on the laptops covered all subjects in the curriculum, he said.
“When teachers get their laptops, they have to activate an e-mail address which would be on a centralized database. Teachers have to send an e-mail to the server once a month, as an indication that they are still using the laptop,” he said.
“Even though teachers can access websites freely, pornographic sites have been blocked.”

By Slindile Maluleka