Fibre network operator (FNO) Evotel, with the installation of its fibre network infrastructure in Welkom, is also providing schools falling within its network coverage with free access to its fast and reliable fibre.
“As responsible citizens we believe in fully investing in the towns and areas we roll out in. As such, last year we launched our Schools Programme by which we undertake to provide added value to the communities we deploy our networks in and provide the qualifying schools in our network areas with free access to fibre,” says Bradley Bekker, Evotel head of business development.
Evotel’s Schools Programme is based on the same principle of laying fibre to build smart cities, however, in this case it is to establish ‘smart-schools’, the importance of which became clear during the lockdown of the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic when efforts to curb the spread of the virus required schools to close.
Education and youth development in South Africa are things that Evotel strongly supports and place in high regard. The uptake of e-schooling and online learning has unfortunately lagged behind other countries and it took a world scare to have South Africa realise that e-schooling has merit and will be the future of education initiatives as technology advances.
Bekker explains: “The main idea behind this initiative is to provide learners with the ability to be successful. They are, after all, the country’s future leaders and their success will be of benefit to everyone.”
Fibre offers consumers many benefits, such as improved multimedia experiences enabling the streaming of movies without buffering and waiting, faster online banking and shopping experiences as well as having the ability to stay in contact with family and friends that are spread across the world through affordable video and voice call apps.
The benefits for schools are just as numerous.
“High speed fibre connectivity just opens so many avenues for educators to use relaible internet and technology, like tablets in the classrooms as well as for educational enhanchment,” says Paul Sauer, Goudveld High School principal.
Students are benefitting from the free access to fibre, allowing them to use the free connectivity for research purposes to complete school assignments and projects. Goudveld High School is currently transforming its library into a media centre, that runs throughout the day to assist learners, that do not have the neccessary resources at home. The school is also in the process of developing an ICT policy, that will guide learners to use technology in a collaborative manner in order for them to be prepared for the world of work.
“We are so appreciative with regard to Evotel providing us with free access to their fibre network, since it opens up a world of opportunities for education in our school, especially for those learners that struggle with connectivity at home,” says Sauer.
Evotel’s free access to high speed broadband internet provides the school with relief from the financial burden it would otherwise have had to bare to get this kind of connectivity. Continues Sauer: “It allows us to beef up our current Wi-Fi hardware to ensure connectivity across the entire school. Eventually it will ensure that all staff, learners and guests will be able to connect anywhere in the school as the educational and administrative needs increase.”
Evotel sponsors this service as well as the cost of providing access to fast and reliable fibre infrastructure to connect the schools to the internet. “The schools don’t have to pay a cent for the fast, open-access connection to a world-class network featuring the latest technology. It’s one of the ways we support and give back to the Welkom community. We are sponsoring this initiative to ensure the success of our youth’s education and create a more advanced schooling environment where tablets and PCs can be implemented for learning,” Bekker adds.
The cost of installation for schools would normally be in the region of R2 100 once-off and then approximately R2 000 per month for the running and leasing of the fibre line. With Evotel’s initiative schools are able to save R24 000 per year.
Goudveld High School is also investigating a cloudbase system for educators, learners and administrative staff to access administration and education as a result of Evotel’s generous contribution to education.
Sauer says the old school system was not very effective regarding connectivity between school and individual or home, but that the access to fibre will change that and enhance the learning experience. “The school can now become a hub for learners that do not have the financial means to access these facilities at home and can do it during school hours and school after-hours,” he says.
HTS Welkom School is another institution that is benefiting from the Evotel schools project and notes Johann van den Berg, Departmental Head at the school: “We are very excited and positive about the initiative from Evotel to grant schools free access to their fibre network.”
Van den Berg says the benefit to the school will allow teachers quick access to the school’s system for administrative purposes. “The students will profit from the fast internet connection that will increase their research capability by making their accessibility to information more easily available and will mean that they can complete assignments and homework much quicker than before, freeing up time to do other things.”
According to Van den Berg, the fast fibre will also see an increase of students collaborating in real time.
HTS School acting principal, Henk Jansen van Vuuren, says that they will utilise the access to the fast internet Evotel is supplying to the fullest extent. “As the fibre network roll out continues in Welkom, connecting students to the internet and the school we are able to distribute our recorded lessons in groups to learners. We distribute the recorded lessons via WhatsApp to learners on various WhatsApp groups and in the past it took us almost two whole days to do. With the fibre access from Evotel we can do this the same day, allowing for improved quality of our remote learning efforts,” he adds.
Jansen van Vuuren adds that the school is busy updating its website and increasing its functionality. The updated school website will feature a section where information on various school subjects will be posted for learners to have easy access to much needed content, which fibre will now allow them to do.