Today, consumers live in a world where information and communication technologies (ICT) are being used at an increasing rate to improve teaching and learning outcomes in schools and tertiary institutions.
But as South Africans celebrate Women’s Day, the question they must ask is whether these new tools are making the fullest impact they can in the lives of disadvantaged girls and women in South Africa, writes Videsha Proothveerajh, South Africa’s country manager at Intel Corporation.
There’s no doubt that women are increasingly asserting their rights to education and meaningful work in the new South Africa. Despite these massive strides, women still lag behind. Nearly 20 years after the dawn of democracy in this country, many girls and young women still battle to complete their education and to gain the skills needed to secure safe work in a competitive environment.
Even where women have caught up in education and employment, they often still earn significantly less than men, and are more likely to live in poverty. In many cases, this leaves them vulnerable to social ills like sexual and workplace exploitation, poor health, HIV infection, domestic abuse and even trafficking.
So what do South Africans need to do? For a start, it’s critical that they work more closely than ever with private sector donors and government to ramp up access to high quality and relevant education, which helps young women meet the challenges of the 21st century.
These challenges go way beyond basic schooling and computer literacy. Right now, the key challenge is equipping the youth – especially girls – with relevant life and work skills that can help them gain secure employment, forge meaningful livelihoods, reduce their vulnerability and ultimately put an end to the cycle of disadvantage.
Meeting this challenge includes revamping curricula to include workplace skills and the use of new technologies. Make no mistake, putting technology in schools alone is not some magic silver bullet that will fix educational challenges overnight. But it’s a critical building block in driving education transformation.
The great thing about technology is that it provides the tools needed to enhance teaching and learning and support student-centred learning environments.
It provides access to information and content experts, encourages collaboration and creation, improves communication and most importantly, it allows students to gain important skills using the same modern technology they’ll encounter in today’s increasingly connected world.
For this technology to make a difference, people need to ensure that teachers become more effective educators by learning to integrate technology into their lessons – thereby promoting problem-solving, critical thinking, and collaboration skills among their students. That’s why empowering teachers is a cornerstone of Intel’s global education efforts.
But even once they’ve integrated technology into classrooms in a way that engages girls with life and work skills and keeps them in school, bigger challenges remain. South Africans need to drive changes in societal attitudes towards girls’ education, so that it becomes just as important for a girl to finish school as for a boy.
They must create a network of support systems and role models that give young women a roadmap to succeed. Only then will South Africans be able to say that they are really closing the gap for girls and women.