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Online schools project quick off the mark

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So far, 10 Gauteng schools have gone online and are connected to the world following the launch of the Schools Online Presence Project by ZADNA (.ZA Domain Name Authority) on 1 March 2016.

Selected by ZADNA (the .ZA Domain Regulator) with the guidance of the Gauteng Department of Education, the schools have been provided with websites built by web designers located in their own communities. This means that teachers and support staff in these schools are now efficiently communicating using their new email addresses associated with the websites.

While reliable local statistics are hard to come by, anecdotal evidence suggests that one would be hard-pressed to find an independent or private school without a website, whereas the converse is true for public schools.

“Having a dedicated school website and email address is no luxury. Building a world-class education system for the majority of South Africans means not compromising on the best available technology. ZADNA is pleased to be able to direct the funds generated from .ZA domain name registrations to a project that uplifts needy schools through a .ZA Internet presence,” says Vika Mpisane, CEO of ZADNA.

Mpisane added that websites are important marketing and online visibility tools for schools, they serve as a central point for disseminating information to learners, educators, parents and other stakeholders. The websites will also enable the schools to centralise their social media presence by having their social media channels (such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter) redirecting from the websites. The schools may also expand the websites into administrative interfaces by linking databases with student profiles and providing Intranets for educators.

The Department of Basic Education pointed out as far back as 2012 that 30% of South African schools have ineffective governing bodies with many parents simply not involved in their children’s education. “Parents can now use their computers, tablets and mobile phones to easily keep abreast of school activities through the websites,” Mpisane says.

The project results from an analysis by ZADNA into some of the school ICT initiatives by the public and private sectors. The analysis showed that most of these included computer laboratories, teacher computer training and the distribution of tablets to learners. It also showed that a substantial number of schools still did not have dedicated websites and email addresses.

According to MV Bilankulu, Lakeview Primary School Principal: “We would like to express our gratitude to ZADNA for this initiative. It complements our vision to become a technology-driven school and to ensure that every learner in Lakeview Primary School is able to use technology to do their school work. Having a dedicated website is a valuable additional service, and we can only challenge ZADNA to do more of the same for other schools as well.”

ZADNA’s Schools Online Presence Project will continue to identify schools requiring website support while partnering with community-based web developers who can help make the government’s vision of connected schools a positive South African reality.

“Our selection of Gauteng schools is purely based on the fact that we felt that, in the short term, it would be easy to manage communication with schools that are geographically close to ZADNA’s operational base. The goal is to work with more provinces and other public and private entities to encourage schools’ online presence within the .ZA namespace,” says Mpisane.