COMMUNITY members and pupils at 109 schools located close to Anglo American’s mining operations in South Africa are set to gain the skills they need to enter the digital job market.
The mining company said it is rolling out a comprehensive information and communications technology (ICT) programme in these institutions. The programme includes installing technology infrastructure and devices in all the schools; providing ICT courses and training to improve digital literacy and skills; a student engagement platform to support primary and secondary pupils; and, ongoing support to ensure the sustainability of the programme.
The rollout, which is being done in collaboration with a range of partners, will cost an estimated R70 million and forms part of Anglo American’s broader education programme being piloted in South Africa in partnership with JET Education Services, and then implemented globally.
Each of the 109 schools will receive a lockable trolley that includes a projector, smart screen, 45 devices (laptops in secondary schools and tablets in primary schools), and a WiFi dongle.
The trolleys, which will be stored in strongrooms, will ensure every student had at least two hours with an internet-connected device every week.
Over and above the trolleys, dedicated IT labs will be installed in eight of the schools, with the support of IT Master, Accenture and HCL. Between them, Accenture and HCL donated 155 desktop computers towards the initiative, and IT Master will prepare the devices and set up the labs, as part of its CSR commitment.
A further 400 tablets have been given to 100 early childhood development centres for learning, play and engagement.
Anglo American’s head of education and community skills Zaheera Soomar said the key element of the programme would be ensuring its sustainability.
"In South Africa, education has long been a key tool in the fight against poverty, inequality and unemployment. But simply getting children through matric isn’t enough. In a country where more than 12.5 million people are unemployed, we’ve got to give them the skills they need to survive, and thrive, in the so-called Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Soomar said.
The implementation partners will work with the schools to ensure that they can continue driving this programme by themselves, without hand-holding and daily support.
Anglo American’s SED ICT Manager Nasreen Sain said South Africa had got to be doing more to embed ICT into local schools and communities.
"This is absolutely critical for any form of economic participation after school. School leavers and community members who do not have access to devices, an internet connection, and digital skills cannot participate in the digital economy,” Sain said.
The Anglo American South Africa Education Programme aims to improve pupils’ educational outcomes and quality passes through addressing some of the underlying reasons for poor education outcomes by supporting school management teams, governing bodies, principals and teaching staff.
The programme forms part of Anglo American’s Sustainable Mining Plan and one of its pillars is to create thriving communities close to its operations, with education as a key building block.
The programme has set ambitious student-focused targets, including 90 percent of pupils aged five meeting the minimum requirements for school readiness; 90 percent of Grade 3 pupils passing with at least 50 percent in numeracy and literacy; 75 percent of Grade 6 learners passing with at least 50 percent in mathematics and English first additional language; and, a 90 percent matriculation pass rate, with a 50 percent university admission of Grade 12 pupils, passing with at least 50 percent in mathematics.
According to the website Internet World Stats, the internet penetration in Africa in 2020 was estimated to be 47.1 percent. At the end of 2019, 45 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa subscribed to mobile services, according to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSMA).
Despite the lag in internet and mobile penetration in Africa, the curve of growth was increasing and Africans were keen to embrace rapid technological change, its versatility, and to bridge the global digital divide. Consequently, as digital penetration was still low compared to other continents, digital literacy was also still behind.
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