Cape Town - The Western Cape's e-learning plan, which will provide free high-speed internet access to all Western Cape schools by the end of next year, will revolutionise education, Premier Helen Zille says.
The plan, which was launched on Tuesday, includes an e-learning portal which will provide teachers, pupils and parents with access to hundreds of educational resources, including applications, ebooks, courses and videos.
The provincial government is investing R3.8-billion over the next 10 years on providing high-speed broadband to all residents. A total of R2bn of this investment will be spent on connectivity at schools.
Zille said 3 350 smart classrooms, equipped with interactive whiteboards, laptops for teachers, projectors and other devices had already been installed at schools. By the end of next year, 581km of fibre optic cable would have been laid alongside an existing 1 251 km Neotel cable network.
A total of 275 schools have been connected to high-speed internet and training for thousands of teachers has been provided.
She said the technology was not there to replace teachers. “A good teacher will always be the backbone of education.”
Zille said the “big game changer” would be when every child had a mobile device on which they could access free, fast reliable access in every school. “And that is what we want to achieve and that is a very big part of the way forward.”
Brian Schreuder, a deputy director-general in the Western Cape Education Department, said the e-learning portal was already live. Developers, teachers, and other contributors could register and load resources on to the portal while the department would load further information, ranging from study tips to education policies.
The portal can be accessed from any location and although much of the content is free, users can choose to pay for “paid content”.
Education MEC Debbie Schäfer said legislation and policies would be uploaded. She said that as the appeal authority in disciplinary matters, she was concerned about the correct procedures being followed and the portal made it easy to access the regulations.
Gail Valentyn, a teacher at the Eros school for pupils with special educational needs, said smart classrooms had been installed and was helping to “bring lessons alive”.
* To access the portal, go to www.wcedeportal.co.za