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Teachers bear brunt of SA digital divide

JOHANNESBURG – SOUTH Africa has commemorated World Teachers Day with a call to empower educators with information and communication technology (ICT) skills.

An executive believes this must be a priority for government and private sector in order to reduce the digital divide between schools in rural and urban communities.

Bontle Ramatsetse, Director of Village Tech, said this had become more urgent arguing the disparities are more glaring following the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Left unchecked, the digital divide is going to grow even wider,” she said.

“The best place to start in reducing the digital divide is to be found in the empowerment of the educator.”

Ramatsetse believes teachers not only instruct but command respect from their learners and play a critical role in shaping the future workforce.

“Considering the impact teachers have on children and youth this World Teachers Day, it is our desire and trust that they are fully
technologically equipped to deal with the ever-changing classroom,” she said.

Tatenda Zingoni, Senior Researcher at Birguid, explained educational technology is the combined use of computer hardware, software, educational theory and practice to facilitate learning.

“Sadly, in many South African classrooms, this has not yet been realised,” according to Zingoni.

Teach with Africa, the non-profit organisation, bemoaned teacher shortage as being at the heart of South Africa’s education challenges.

Village Tech noted between 2015 and 2019, the number of high school learners taking mathematics dropped by 16 percent.

The shortage of teachers in the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) subjects combined with the low ICT penetration in the classroom is seen a contributing factor in this decline.

“The result is South Africa performing poorly in mathematics education, knowledge and understanding with fewer matriculants passing the subject each year,” Ramatsetse argued.

The Department of Basic Education announced plans earlier this year to introduce coding and robotics to the curriculum.

Ramatsetse said this would require teachers competent in these subjects.

It is feared many teachers might not know how to properly use standard computer programmes or create a digital presentation for teaching.

“To level the playing field, we must empower teachers with the requisite ICT competencies and soon,” Ramatsetse advised.

World Teachers’ Day is held annually on October 5 to celebrate all educators around the globe.

– CAJ News

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