Kathy Gibson is at the E-Learning Summit in East London – The Eastern Cape province is embracing e-learning as one of its strategic pillars of education.

Fundile Gade, MEC: education and training for the Eastern Cape, stresses that ICT cannot be allowed to fail in the province.

“It is one of the strategic key developmental aspects that any nation that aspires to grow the economy and human capital has to take education seriously,” he says.

He explains that the provincial government has put forward a transformative systems plan for education that embraces e-learning.

However, Gade cautions that rolling out digital learning must address balanced learning while taking into account the inclusion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs).

“It is imperative, given our history as a country and the glaring challenges we continue to face in education, we have an understanding that ICT has the potential capacity to mitigate the challenges of inclusivity.

“The issue of ICT goes beyond networking and connectivity, but gets into what constitutes the character of the national democratic revolution.

“It is important that we respond to equity issues, to the issues of imbalance, issues of redress and issues of inclusivity.”

Gade says the provincial education department will soon announce a rollout plan for digital learning.

“It is key that, when we roll out the plan, we dare not undermine the issue of localisation,” he adds. “And we dare not undermine the issue of inclusivity.

“These aspects are key to the driving force of changing for a better life for all. it would be meaningless to roll out ICT if we don’t address the character of the society we are.”

The province has already piloted its smart classroom project which focuses on the provision is ICT infrastructure, digital content and training for subject advisers and teachers.

The programme began in 2016, with 18 schools set up with 160 classrooms. To date, a total of 139 schools have been included.

Another issue that must be kept in mind, Gade says, is the issue of ensuring that a redefined national curriculum statement responds to the challenges of society.

“We must discuss whether the curriculum that we impart is one that can build a citizen with a special type of character. Or are we just imparting knowledge and skills?

“What kind of society do you seek to build? At the heart of the digital learning programme and the content of the curriculum is a proper definition of what we actually mean when we way we want to build a government with a human face.”

Gade says the telematics centres set up to offer distance learning using facilities at Stellenbosch University have been successful in helping to boost the province’s matric pass rate.

“That project made a massive improvement in the education in this province,” he says.

“The only challenge was whether it is strategic for the province to continue with telematics centres in the context of Stellenbosch University or if we should advance the project by using the research capacity of the universities in our province.”