Digital access allows teachers and learners alike to collaborate with peers on tasks or projects no matter where they are located. This boosts learners’ skills in creativity, critical thinking and innovation – three of the top skills needed by professionals in the future world of work, according to WEF.
“In South Africa, making the internet more accessible continues to chip away at the massive digital divide, enabling those with fewer resources to access education and improve their lives,” says Vuma’s Lianne Williams. “From Vosloorus, Soweto, and Soshenguve, to Retreat, Kayamandi and Blue Downs, the more learners and educators who are able to connect to the internet, the better our odds as a country in dealing with socio-economic challenges like poverty, crime, and unemployment.
“Internet access is essential to attaining the skills necessary for generations entering the future world of work. Advanced science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) skills in addition to digital literacy capabilities are vital to this end, and for learners to survive the future world of work,” she adds.
In South Africa, however, access to connectivity is still not as widespread as it should be, creating a barrier to STEM skills development among learners in the country. In fact, the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) noted that just 6 085 schools were connected to the Internet in 2021. This amounts to just 26,1% of all South African schools.
As the world and institutions depend more on digital platforms to operate and hybrid classrooms become more common, many learners without Internet access are facing even greater exclusion from education and opportunities than they did pre-Covid.
Mrs ML van der Merwe, principal at Hoërskool Roodepoort says that, while the pandemic left many learners on the backfoot when it came to their education, access to the Internet has had a positive impact on the learning environment at her school.
“Fibre has allowed for more effective interventions, additional classes, online parent meetings and much more. It was especially helpful during and directly after the Covid-19 lockdown, allowing us to continue quality education and learner engagement despite learners being away from school.”
At Otto du Plessis High School, in Port Elizabeth, another school that Vuma set up with a fibre connection in 2021, learners’ end-of-year results have been positively impacted by lightning-fast, reliable internet access, with the school’s matric pass rate reportedly climbing from 78% prior to the installation of fibre to 82% the following year.