South Africa: In the very same breadth, the Mpumalanga Department of Education is optimistic that Ubuhle Buzile e-Learning programme which was launched on 05 April 2022 by the Premier, Mrs Refilwe Mtshweni –Tsipane, is revolutionizing the delivery of teaching and learning practice within the Province.
The launch event coincided with the delivery of 55000 tablets for Grade 12 learners and 6700 laptops for teachers in the quintiles 1 to 3 schools.
Speaking on that occasion, the elated Premier said:
“We are taking a giant leap in the educational field today, with Ubuhlebuzile secondary school, as the base to launch the e-Learning Programme. It gives me pleasure to be a part of this history-making moment, joining hands with the community of Mkhondo Municipality as our provincial government is making this bold move. This is evidence of our commitment to equipping the Grade 12 Class with the tools to optimize their learning.”
There is more to these technological tools that we are handing over today:
• They are the fruits that stem from the 4th industrial revolution era that we are in;
• They are catalysts of change that thrust both learners and teachers into a digital age in which their capacity will be elevated to national standards.
These gadgets will optimize the quality of learning across the Province, and through this initiative, we will move a step closer to attaining the ideals of the Strategic Framework for Schooling 2030, Mpumalanga Vision 2030, The African Union: Agenda 2063 and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and provide quality, effective and non-colonial education to the children of our beautiful Province, she added.
We are a first step towards realizing our vision to ensure a “One Tablet one Learner” for the benefit of our children”, She said.
These sentiments were confirmed by Ms Sibongile Irene Gondwe, Principal of Sitintile Secondary School, who reverberates her joy at e-Learning being introduced at her school from January 2022 thus:
“As a school, we’re under the Mathematics, Science and Technology Academy aligned schools whereby e-Learning assists a lot.
Since the tablets were introduced to the learners after a two-year Covid-19 pandemic challenge, we are certain that we’ll make it to the end of the year because of this progressive support considering that learners are able to access all information whether they are at school, in the bus or car and at home, too.
“A learning environment has been created for them around the clock. We are definitely going to improve our pass rate since we’ve got these gadgets which are assisting teaching and learning at school and other social spaces. Learners are also able to download past examination question papers to acquaint themselves with how to approach their examinations at all costs.
“I must say there’s open communication between learners and educators through this system as WhatsApp messages are exchanged between learners and the educators at all times. So, we don’t have a huge problem in terms of communication.
“We will definitely improve our pass mark from last year’s 69% to 85% because we have put all strategies in place to ensure we succeed.
There are many strategies in place, like we have profiled the learners according to their abilities. We have streamlined them and have provided questionnaires to determine their abilities.
“The top learners will also be pushed to leverage up to Level 7 and go higher still. The learners on the borderline will be provided with easy-to-answer questions and will be pushed from Levels one to three. Hence we’re confident of attaining our 85% and above; we will obtain it at the end of this academic year,” assured Gondwe.
She asserted further that since e-Learning was introduced and the gadgets distributed among the learners, learners are able to interact with their teachers and among themselves, too. They are able to, through WhatsApp, ask questions on things they require explanation.
“That is why I’ve said we’re gunning for an 85% pass mark this year because there’s just a hive of activity between the teachers and learners. Above that, data is there, and at school, we’re controlling its usage in a good manner.
“We ensure that learners don’t come with their own gadgets or cards, but stick to the ones supplied to them, hence this academic year, we’re going to receive good results, a thing that is very motivational, indeed,” she ended.
Thembeka Secondary School Principal Mlungisi Khoza said:
“We are very much excited about these e-Learning gadgets.
As principals, I must confess that we were very excited because we foresaw that they would contribute a lot to enhancing learning and teaching at our schools.
These tablets will go a long way in assisting learners in terms of resourcefulness.
“They replace the textbooks, which would be lacking due to retrieval challenges, now the gadgets are closing that gap.
We did experience teething problems as this was something new for our schools. The learners got excited as some abused these gadgets by not using the available data the right way.
“It’s ensuring that the data provided is adequately used for learning and research purposes, including communicating with educators through Whatsapp and also communicating with their peers, discussing and advising each other on subject matters.
As it is, with some of the lost gadgets, we’ve already opened up criminal cases with the police,” further explained Shongwe.
What subjects are covered through the e-Learning system?
“All subjects are covered on this system. Teachers on the ground are very happy, and I’m sure the learners can attest for themselves how handy they are to them,” said Shongwe.
LEARNERS’ RESPONSE TO UBUHLE BUZILE E-LEARNING PROGRAMMENJABULO CHAUKE FROM THEMBEKA SECONDARY SCHOOL
“When they were first introduced to us, we saw them as befitting to help us cover up for learning lost due to Covid-19. We found it to be packed up with a lot of learning material and study guides that came in handy for us to really get down to studying hard.
“Most of the time, you personally work on your own, liaise with teachers whenever you need clarification on certain aspects of a particular subject you’re dealing with at that particular moment.
Otherwise, it’s a give and takes kind of situation, whereby you’re on a vicious cycle to working well with each other, both learners and teachers, alike.
“On the other hand, this system has come in handy because, in the past, we used to experience a lack of textbooks, but now we have all textbooks in our gadgets. I’m doing seven subjects which are Physical Science, Mathematics, Life Sciences, English, and Life Orientation, among others.
“My first choice career is engineering. The second choice is Medicine, provided there are a lot of students going into that field. I must check on the demand for it first.
“Engineering, for me, has a lot of opportunities. I prefer Industrial and Civil Engineering.
I excel in Physical Science and Mathematics. Overall, my percentage improvement on my pass marks averaged four percent from above 70% passes in all my subjects.
“I spend an average of four hours on my tablet, which depends on which subjects you’re dealing with at that particular time. I also do participate in group studies, which is also very helpful, too,” explained Njabulo.
SIPHELELE KHOZA FROM THEMBEKA SECONDARY SCHOOL
How did the tablets change your study experience?
“Basically, the tablet is an advanced tool to help me carry on with my studying routine.
The first time, I didn’t even have a cellphone, previous examination papers and a study guide, too. The tablets have assisted me a lot because even my pass marks were not this high, but now I’m performing very well.
“My pass marks have improved tremendously, and now I feel confident with myself and my ability to go easy on the final examinations and will definitely attain very good pass percentages. My pass marks improved by an average of 30% in all subjects. In History, I was on Level 3 two terms ago, but last term I obtained Level 5.
“My advice to other learners entering matric next year is to work very hard and desist from abusing the tablets, but use them solely for study purposes,” he ended.
NONHLANHLA MADONSELA FROM SITINTILE HIGH SCHOOL
“The tablets have come in very handy for me, and I’ve been embroiled in all its activities. They have really assisted me a lot. We are able to browse the internet.
It has enhanced my learning abilities as it provides textbooks which are more useful study guides.
“I improved my pass mark for Mathematics, for instance, from 43 to 76%.
In Physical Science and Life Sciences, I have improved quite a lot.
I’m optimistic that our school will attain a 100% pass rate this year because of the wealth of study material available in these tablets,” she stated.