Provision of ICT in schools: Department of Basic Education & Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services briefing

Telecommunications and Postal Services

01 March 2016
Chairperson: Ms N Gina (ANC) and Ms M Kubayi (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services met jointly with the Department of Basic Education regarding the provision of ICT connectivity in all schools through South Africa. Additionally, the meeting involved stakeholders, including the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) and the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) as well as other representatives of educational and network operations.

The main issues discussed by the presenters were as follows:

  • It was important to clearly define what was meant by connectivity and clarify roles of responsibilities of all stakeholders involved in the plan.
  • It must be noted that ICT was not the solution, but instead a means to the solution.
  • There was a strong focus on the training of teachers, as this was very crucial to the implementation, process and success of incorporating ICT in schools.
  • Teacher training aimed to focus on advancing the abilities, skills and capacity of teachers in order to be able to deliver accordingly and enhance their teaching, thus adequately being able to deliver the knowledge appropriate in equipping students’ learning and performance; this also ensured that teachers were able to deliver quality teaching to learners.
  • There was a focus on rural schools and schools with special needs, as many had been previously excluded in previous attempts at connectivity of schools.
  • There would be a 20GB cap on internet usage per school, and any excess would have to be paid by the school at e-rates.
  • A key challenge highlighted was that funds were insufficient, and this made it difficult to effectively carry out the rollout.

It was important to develop teacher learning and engagement by making sure that there was a clear and working transaction between teachers and learners. The rollout plan was pro-poor, with a focus on bridging the digital divide between urban and rural schools. Learners in poor schools would be given tablets in order to enhance learning through various models and the learners’ capabilities. Learners from schools in the fourth and fifth quintiles were included in this model and process, but they had to bring their own devices to class. Moreover, another issue that was discussed was theft and security concerns, including the key role of various stakeholders such as the South African Police Service, parents and the community at large.

Some key questions raised were:

  • The importance of making it clear what connectivity actually entailed, as computers lying idle and unused was not connectivity.
  • The issue of infrastructure and its functionality was often found to be disappointing.
  • There were concerns relating to what exactly was being done to train those teachers who have not yet been trained, and by what date they would all be trained.
  • The issue of budget constraints and sustainability of the provision of tablets remained a problem. Additionally, the 20GB cap was said to be small, especially if connected schools were to act as community internet hubs. This needed to be addressed and also indicate where poor schools, especially in rural areas, would get the funds to pay for e-rates following the depletion of the 20GB.
  • It was important to outline the operations and logistics of the plan, highlighting whether IT specialists would be present on site to deal with issues of updating and refreshing devices.
  • There should be a move from 3G to 4G, as 3G was too slow, especially in schools located where the network was already a problem.
  • It was important to create an all-inclusive sustainable plan with a strong focus on special needs and rural schools, making sure the legacies of the past were addressed and making sure that no learner gets left behind.
  • More clarity and information was needed on funding and the involvement of the various stakeholders with regard to the concerns over the lack of funds.

Meeting report

Chairperson’s opening remarks
The co-Chairperson (Ms Gina) welcomed Committee Members, guests and visitors, and recorded apologies from the Deputy Minister of Telecommunications, Prof Hlengiwe Mkhize, the Minister of Education and the Deputy Minister of Education, Ms V Ketebahle (EFF), Ms L van der Merwe (IFP), and Ms N Makoto (ANC).

The Minister had been asked that the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) team, together with the Independent Communications Authority in South Africa (ICASA) join the meeting although they would not be presenting. They had to be present as part of the discussion because there were certain matters that had been discussed in the joint presentations that referred to both USAASA and ICASA.

The joint collaboration between the Department of Telecommunications and the Department of Basic Education was highly commendable. The joint collaboration was important because of past issues that had been flagged at previous meetings. Those in the Department of Basic Education would go to the schools to look at the matter and at times it would not make sense. They had been to schools which had connectivity, but had found that the speed was not up to scratch.

It was important, from Parliament’s point of view, to emphasise the joint collaboration and to show quality oversight. It was also important to work together, as it was possible that the Department of Basic Education was able to see things that the Department of Telecommunications might not pay attention to. For example, the Department of Telecommunications might not pay attention to connectivity in the administration block -- they might go straight to the classes to check connectivity. However, it was important that even at the administration level, the teachers and the principals should be able to get connected because circulars sent to them needed to reach them on time, and this was where connectivity began. The Department of Telecommunications viewed things from an information communication technology (ICT) and telecommunications point of view, while the Department of Education was able to view things from an education point of view. When collaborating jointly, both Departments were able to see the issues from both sides, flag them and make sure that their oversight was enhanced.

The Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services was requested to say a few words before he left.

Address by Minister of Telecommunications and Postal Services,
Dr Siyabonga Cwele, Minister of the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services, said he was pleased to have an opportunity to present to Parliament, with USAASA and ICASA joining in on the meeting. Since the committee meeting in September 2014, the situation had improved a bit, so the collaborative efforts of a joint committee were welcomed. On a national level, the Departments were working closely together at a practical level where they were trying to coordinate issues better with provinces and people who were on the ground. The effect of that was that the rollout speed had improved a bit, as there was better connectivity. The Department was ahead of schedule because of meeting universal obligations. The challenge was to appreciate connectivity, whether big or small. This was because connectivity had not previously existed in most rural and poor schools. The big challenge was that the connections were not at broadband levels, as in most instances it was basic internet access.

The new policies highlighted in the “South Africa Connect” and the National Development Plan (NDP), gave the Department clear guidance on what should be provided for schools, clinics and government offices, and so on. The net effect was that these interventions tended not to be sustainable over a long term period. The approach was to give connectivity over a number of years and hand over to the responsible Department to take over connectivity. The challenge with that was that ICT changed very frequently, so the Department (of Basic Education) might find itself in a place where the technology had become outdated before the takeover had occurred. The handover process had always been a problem. This meant that the Department should have budgeted for taking over the payment of the connectivity preparing the data. The current 3G speed was not as desired. This was because 3G was not viewed as a true broadband speed. The Department would prefer Long-Term Evolution (LTE) or 4G broadband levels as a minimum. The utilisation, even when connectivity was present, was not at its best capacity.

In this respect, there had been an ICT policy review and other initiatives jointly with the Department of Basic Education. The key issue in the review was the analysis of universal obligations. The model on how to carry this out would be addressed later. The issue of sustainability would be addressed to show what was required other than mere compliance by the licensing authority. The efforts of what the licensing authority had done to  expand connectivity to where it had not been imagined just few years ago was highly appreciated. President Zuma had introduced the model of Operation Phakisa: Education in ICT. The model had helped quite a lot, as it dealt with all the elements which helped to improve the system:

  • It dealt primarily with connectivity and the speed levels that should be in place;
  • It dealt with teachers’ development, which meant that people who delivered these things had the capacity to do so;
  • It dealt with content development, as content was needed to go through the pipelines;
  • It also dealt with device support and maintenance.

It was quite an integrated approach to improve the situation. The Department of Telecommunication was working along with the Department of Basic Education to make sure that there was a coordinated response and results could be delivered much faster. There was hope that despite a few hiccups present in the South Africa Connect rollout, the policy would still be able to assist, although financial constraints might delay the time and delivery in achieving the desired infrastructure goals.

Lastly, as most who have visited government offices where there was supposed to be connectivity will appreciate, one of the key challenges at present was the issue of crime. Crime was affecting schools quite badly, in particular the destruction of equipment, the theft of the devices and the destruction of infrastructure. Sometimes in certain areas, there appeared to be cases of organised crime. The South African Police Service (SAPS) had been contacted regarding this matter for further investigation and a call has been made to communities to help in reducing these crimes. Trolleys could not be kept in classrooms as people physically broke the classrooms, therefore the devices and equipment had to be taken into storage. Consequently, learners using ICT did not always have access.  This also meant that there was a risk posed to teachers who commuted with these devices and equipment. This issue should be addressed, as it could impact on the teaching and planning of the projects' operations.

The Minister concluded his address and left the meeting.

Joint presentation: Provision of ICT and e-Education in schools, with focus on connectivity

Mr Mathanzima Mweli, Acting Deputy Director–General: Curriculum Policy Monitoring and Support, Department of Basic Education (DBE), said that the presentation would be delivered jointly by the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services (DTPS) and the DBE.

Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services
Mr Tinyiko Ngobeni, Deputy Director–General: ICT Infrastructure Development, DTPS, said that in 2014 there had been a Committee briefing in Parliament on problems faced by connectivity in schools. However, the Committee had not been impressed with the approach taken, especially with the presentations made. The approach was said to be fragmented, so the Committee had re-established itself and attempted to engage and work with other committees in order to try address the challenges that had been raised. The presentation would firstly highlight issues raised by the Committee in the previous meeting and also report back on the status of the schools’ connectivity meeting. Furthermore, the Committee would give a brief on future plans in terms of the schools’ connectivity and also report on the universal service obligations, which concerned the programme rolled out in the schools’ connectivity programme during the current financial year.

The issues raised from the previous meeting were:

  • The lack of clarity on the roles. The Department had gone back and revised the approach in terms of schools’ connectivity. They had clarified the roles and also, with the lack of coordination issue, the Department had managed to strengthen infrastructure from the Deputy Ministers’ forum.
  • The rollout approach, as there were no standards. Therefore it was to be made clear as to what was meant by 'connectivity.' Some had asked whether dropping computers off at a school was classed as connectivity or not, or whether a school having a number or certain types of devices afforded them connectivity. Also, the types of devices were inconsistent.
  • The issue of physical security following the implementation of the devices. Sometimes before there was an official handover to the school or implementation, it was found that devices had been stolen from schools. Hopefully the law would assist closely on this issue.
  • The sustainability of the connectivity model in ensuring that once connectivity had been established. How would the Department ensure that the schools relying on the connectivity did not get disconnected at some point. ICASA was working on a model with USAASA in resolving this issue.

With regards to future plans, the Minister had already spoken about Operation Phakisa. The focus was on connectivity speeds and on other elements including teacher development, content and applications so that everything was done simultaneously. All these elements needed to be present in order to help in achieving the objectives highlighted in the future plan.

There was an issue on quality of data, however. Schools were working on this in trying to get information, using resources in the provincial departments to validate the concern. In terms of creating an approach that allowed for integration, the Department was looking at the entire schools’ connectivity value chain. Once there was connectivity at the schools, there would be end-user devices, applications and content. Also, there would be the training of the teachers, which then became the responsibility of the Department of Basic Education.

It was important to note that there were other stakeholders who were very keen to assist, in particular ICASA, with enforcing the universal service obligations in order to set the standards and norms. USAASA was keen to assist in using the universal service fund in order to ensure sustainability.  Additionally, state owned companies (SOEs) had shown an interest in assisting via their Corporate Social Investments (CSIs). The private sector too had shown interest in providing mainly network services and end -user devices. In effect, that was how responsibilities among various stakeholders had been shared. However, there were key responsibilities that fell within the Departments of Telecommunications and Basic Education. In terms of the structures established, there was a Deputy's Minister connectivity forum, which included everything from Telecommunications and Postal Services, Education and Health, Science and Technology, and Public Service and Administration. There was a Department of Telecommunications and the Department of Education task team which met regularly to review issues and assist with plans going forward. There was also a provincial school standing committee. This was where provincial stakeholders and partnerships were brought in as they were very closely linked to the actual implementation and in assisting with challenges encountered with the rollout.

In terms of the standards of the devices and connectivity, ICASA had published in the Government Gazette in 2015 highlights of the universal service obligations and figures of the hardware that would be provided, and the connectivity speed -- trying to align that with the broadband policy with South Africa Connect. In order to make sure that it was expanded and able to go forward, the Department of Basic Education was working on e-Education guidelines coming from the 2008 White Paper, which included proper standards for connectivity.

The Department of Telecommunications had gone back to schools that were connected -- 46% of the approximately 25 000 schools currently had some form of connectivity. Here, the focus was on connectivity for teaching and learning, thus excluding connectivity that focused on administration support. This level of connectivity was much higher. Each and every school had connectivity just to support administration in order to support effective communication and efficiencies between the Departments and the schools. In most schools, connectivity was way below broadband speed, as highlighted in the broadband connectivity policy. Details could be provided to the Committee if required on which schools were connected, and further details regarding broadband and speed levels.

The focus on rural and urban connectivity had been done in order to assess the speed. It was found that there was a 54% connectivity focus on urban areas and a 33% focus on rural areas. As part of the universal services obligation, the focus was to improve connectivity on rural areas in order to correct the imbalances between the two spaces. In terms of what had happened during the current financial year, the Department of Telecommunications had employed Vodacom, MTN, Cell C and Neotel to connect 5 250 schools over a five-year period, with the rollout having started in April 2015. To date, approximately 1 100 have been connected and provided with end-user devices. The training of the teachers was also linked to that. At the moment, Vodacom and MTN had led the rollout, with Cell C having started only recently and Neotel starting soon during the current financial year.

The number of learners who were benefiting from the progress of the schools’ connectivity was approximately 16 000 learners. At present, there was the trolley model which would be moved from class to class, even though not seen as ideal, but it was expanding within the school environment. The training of end-users had allowed the Department to enter into a partnership to ensure training of the teachers. This was seen as crucial, as teachers needed to get used to this way of doing things and adapting. Without taking teachers on board, it was unlikely that the plan would succeed, so a strong focus had been placed on the teachers’ role and development.

With regard to content, it was noted that there were servers that allowed for the access of content offline. There had been negotiations with service providers to make sure that there was no charge for offline access. In terms of the universal service obligations, the current status of the connectivity was that approximately 51% of schools were connected, given their different needs. Another issue of devices and connectivity was to monitor evaluation and usage. In some cases, because of the lack of, or delayed training, connectivity might be halted for a while. However once connectivity had been established, the Department of Telecommunications was able to monitor the usage of connectivity in schools. It was also important to note schools which had reported incidents with regard to their connectivity, as this allowed for providing better training. Sometimes, it was found that there were minor incidents reported, where a report had been filed because of a device having been unplugged. However, these reports were appreciated as they showed peoples' interest and usage of the devices provided. There should be a proper transfer of skills plan, so that when trained teachers left the school environment this would not cause a disruption to the connectivity plan in the schools.

Again, with regard to the universal service obligations, the Department of Telecommunications was monitoring the data usage of schools, as sometimes it was found that schools experienced low usage. It had been shown that historically most of the connectivity speed was not close to broadband levels highlighted in South Africa Connect, for example. Consequently, based on Phase One planning, the Department of Telecommunications was looking to upgrade connectivity speed via South Africa Connect. It also intended to connect 1 200 schools out of the over 4 000 schools, based on the value that had been allocated from the Treasury. There had been a delay on connectivity, but once it was sorted out the Department of Telecommunications would be able to increase connectivity to more schools. There was high connectivity in the Western Cape and Gauteng, with both provinces being at almost 100% connectivity.  Moreover, most of these schools were working on upgrading their broadband connection speed, which in most cases had been poor. The Department was planning on a deeper focus on connecting rural districts.

Going forward, as part of South Africa Connect, it was making sure targets set out in the policy for connectivity were achieved. Speed deterrence was one of the challenges faced by end users, so the Department was working on trying to improve the speed and also increase number of learners who could connect at the same time. The challenges also included cost and finances. ICASA was finalising a payment model in order to ensure there was free data up to a threshold of 20GB, and payment thereafter would be at e-rates.

Through South Africa Connect and Operation Phakisa, speed and connectivity challenges would be addressed. Once all challenges were addressed, then the project would be able to move forward more quickly. The Department had been looking towards alternative sources of funding, as the fiscus had proved to be insufficient in covering the key challenges raised by the committees involved.

Department of Basic Education

Mr Seliki Tlhabane, Acting Chief Director, MST and Curriculum Enhancement Programmes, DBE, touched on three things:

  • Work being done with regard to the preparation of teachers to embrace technology and to integrate ICT into their teaching practices.
  • Dealing with issues regarding digital content.
  • The status of Operation Phakisa and the broadcast solution on how to leverage broadcasting in education to deliver a curriculum.

The Department of Telecommunications had a partnership with Vodacom establishing 149 teacher centres. Of the 149 centres, 81 of them were fully connected and work was in progress to ensure that the rest were connected as well. 110 had ICT labs. It was acknowledged that teachers generally had very low levels of ICT knowledge and competence. It had been found that 26% of teachers had basic skills in ICT, while only 7% were at an intermediate level, thus there was a lot of work to be done in this area. There was a teacher development ICT plan which was encamped  by five principles being: the optimal use of ICT, access and building of capacity, a growing evidence base  and developing guidelines, norms and standards. The Department of Telecommunications aimed to deliver access to the teachers’ plan, working with various partners and stakeholders who were in support of the plan. They included Microsoft, Vodacom and Huaweii, Mindset and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

There were 76 teacher centres that had ICT resources which were running programmes developed by the University of South Africa (UNISA) to make sure that teachers had the capacity to be able to utilise ICT. There were 60 teacher centres which were Microsoft IT academies. There were 200 teachers who were trained in exam preparation, because ICT was not only about being able to deliver the curriculum, but teachers had to use technology to assess their learners as well. There were already 200 teachers put on this plan, with the assistance of UNICEF and Papervideo. The Department of Telecommunications had developed norms and standards which had been finalised and were ready for approval by the senior management. Additionally, there were teacher self-diagnostic assessments that had been developed in partnership with Pearson, UNICEF and the British Council. There were 196 Grade 8 maths teachers who had gone through the assessment process. The test was exclusively confidential. The test gave the teacher feedback with regard to the level which they were at, and also plans to encourage them to improve on areas identified as weaknesses by the test. These initiatives aimed to accelerate the teachers in ICT. This had been done with the assistance of INTEL, where training had been provided to 1 783 teachers from schools in the eight districts from all the provinces, excluding Gauteng and the Western Cape. This was because Gauteng and the Western Cape were quite advanced and doing remarkable work. Support was geared more towards struggling provinces. Through the National Teaching Awards, a category had been included to recognise teachers who were integrating ICT into their teaching and learning.

With regard to the work done on electronic and/or digital content, development and distribution, digital resources had been categorised into three: 1) interactive workbooks; 2) digital workbooks and textbooks in PDF form; and 3) open education resources received from other partners and industries. Some of the material developed from 2014 and 2015 focussed on work done from Grade R until Grade 4 in English as an additional language. There was Book 1 and Book 2, and also literacy in Afrikaans for Term 1 and Term 2. In open education resources, these were resources received from partners which included academics, e-classrooms and Mind The Gap, which had resources outlined for the specific grades and subjects. Some resources were in the form of videos, worksheets and career guidance sheets.

Moving forward, there was a plan to develop texts and textbooks for Grade 1, Grade 10 and Grade 12, looking into subjects such as literacy, numeracy and life skills. Targets had been set for the next few years. There were 784 digital packs on different subjects and grades that had been distributed to 42 secondary managers and 35 school libraries. Thus it was not only about supporting teachers, but also supporting circuit and district managers in making sure that they were not left behind.

In looking at content development, there was insufficient funding to carry out all the required goals. However, alternative sources of funding had been looked into, including industries, to assist in developing material.

There was lack of advocacy and mediation on digital content, as most teachers were still using textbooks, so there needed to be awareness raised and proper communication established. One way of distributing content was through the broadcast solution. Currently, there was no national comprehensive approach to broadcasting, although there were a number of modalities in terms of how broadcasting was utilised to deliver lessons. The Western Cape was using telematics in partnership with Stellenbosch University.  The Free State was using the Internet Broadcast Programme (IBP), in partnership with the University of the Free State. The Department of Basic Education, in partnership with PLATCO Digital and Mindset, were broadcasting and had recorded lessons on a platform provided by PLATCO Digital. Broadcast was on an open VOI division Channel 201. Also on board was MultiChoice, in order to assist in delivering lessons. Progress had been made with work done with PLATCO Digital and Mindset. The channel had been broadcasting since 2014, supporting Grades 7 to 12 in language, mathematics and science.

There were challenges present, such as the lack of broadcasting content for some of the subjects, so it was important to work closely with the SABC and other stakeholders to make sure that material currently unavailable was developed.  The Department of Education did not own the platform, as it was owned and hosted by PLATCO Digital and the material used was by Mindset. The DBE hoped that one day it would have ownership of broadcasting and material. In order to develop a national broadcasting solution for schools, meetings had been held by Mindset, the SABC and Telematics, as they played key roles in developing a national framework on how broadcast could be leveraged to deliver a broadcast owned by the DBE.

In closing, Operation Phakisa had provided detailed implementation plans, with approximately 120 participants taking part from various sectors, industry and academia. There were five national departments taking part in the four week course, and all nine provincial education departments were present.

The aim was to deliver a systematic rollout curriculum plan for ICT. There were five initiatives which were informed by the five streams in the White Paper No. 7, which stated that if the ICT rollout was to be cracked in schools, then there needed to be a focus on the five pillars. The first pillar was connectivity, followed by teacher development, then digital content, e-administration and the infrastructure that came with the devices themselves. Goals and objectives arising from these had been presented to the Ministerial Managerial Meeting (MMM) who, following the presentation, had suggested a more refined plan. This included starting with long-term influences and working with current allocation allocations, i.e taking a faced-in approach. The DBE should first start with schools who had learners with special needs, and multigrade schools. These were schools that had been identified as not receiving enough attention and therefore suffering as a result.

The DBE had since developed a framework plan for ICT implementation that emanated from Operation Phakisa. Activities were broken down into short, medium and long term. These had been shared with the sister departments who had made an input into what was to be done in the short, medium and long term. The plan of Operation Phakisa had implications for other departments -- for example, there were some activities that required the support of the Department of Science and Technology, USAASA and ICASA, and all other sister departments. The final approval would go through the Ministerial Managerial Meeting (MMM), Heads of Education Committee (HeadCo) and the Council of Education Ministers (CEM).

The co-Chairperson (Ms Gina) informs the Committee that ICASA and USAASA had been requested to attend the meeting, as they played key roles in the work being done. The relevant representatives from ICASA and USAASA were asked to introduce themselves and give a few words.

Input by ICASA
Mr Willington Ngwepe, Chief Operating Officer, ICASA noted that the presentations presented by the two departments accurately reflected ICASA’s current status.  A key role of ICASA highlighted in one of the presentations was the funding model for the 50% e-rate. This was a current initiative that ICASA was working on.

Input by USAASA
Mr Mawethu Cawe, Acting Chairperson at USAASA, said that USAASA was busy with internet connectivity across the country. There were some challenges that USAASA faced, but their biggest challenge was funding. This year USAASA had been able to engage with ICASA, and was also looking into forming and leveraging external partnerships. There had been a lot of duplication in the industry and thus this highlighted the need to have the necessary strategic partnerships in order to create a greater impact on what was to be achieved. The last point highlighted was the handover of schools. The issue was to find a working model so that sustainability would be ensured after a two year handover, for example. USAASA was pleased see to what processes had been undertaken by the DBE, especially in the area of teacher development. It was important to get teachers to embrace technology, and make this a sustainable process.

Ms Makgotso Moeba, Executive Operations Manager, USAASA, added that USAASA had input in both presentations and were aware of the challenges, or at least the major issue of universal obligations as set out by ICASA. The government side had been taken care of. The only outstanding issue was to deal with the funding for connectivity.

Gauteng Department of Education (GDE): ICT and e-Education strategy and implementation progress

Mr Albert Chanee, Deputy Director: Education Planning and Policy, GDE, said the rationale behind the intervention was due to cases showing the overall decline in literacy levels across Gauteng, with clear problems highlighted in particular grades.  At a national comparative level, Gauteng was doing very well in most subjects, but there was evidence of underachievement in key subject areas. Gauteng was continuously well above the national average performance, with the Bachelor pass rate doing quite well. However it was evident that there were a large number of learners being left behind.
When looking at regional studies, and taking Gauteng out from the rest of South Africa, it was found that Gauteng had a  competitive edge and could be seen competing with the likes of Tanzania, which was right at the top. However, if one was to look at the table, with South Africa as the comparison, then Gauteng was found right at the bottom. Looking at other comparative ranges, regionally and internationally, it was important to set targets that took Gauteng beyond a national comparison level. What had come through, in line with targets set out by the National Development Plan (NDP), was the evidence of large problem areas, including teacher incompetence, quality of content and infrastructure issues. The intervention targets had been set out in line with targets set by the National Development Plan (NDP) transformation agenda in modernising how education was to be delivered.

If there was a need to change the system, then teachers needed to be developed. This involved identifying how to help teachers teach better and providing access to engaging material, as the textbook in itself was not enough. The vast material online allowed for the creation of a better understanding of material. This was a way of bridging the digital divide and dealing with the issue of social cohesion and focusing on issues of class, to ensure greater impacts on pro-poor interventions and to reduce the achievement gap between the rich and the poor. To a large extent, the focus was on transforming the schools in order to manage the solution.

There were ten pillars in Gauteng put forward into the provincial plan, including curriculum development, with number six on the list being education. While it was important, ICT was not in itself the solution -- it was the means toward the solution. ICT underpinned the key levers around curriculum development, teacher training and support. The focus was on six key levers in ICT. The first was connectivity, as this allowed for content to be delivered and for learning to be enhanced. The second key level was content -- sophisticated content was required in order to be transmitted across different networks. The capacity of teachers was important, and this included the training and retraining of the teachers. Also required was infrastructure and support to make sure it worked, and innovation to ensure that challenges faced were dealt with in the delivery process.

There were four models of ICT delivery looked at for ICT development. The one model showed minimal technology, which included the use of overhead projectors. However, it was evident that most schools did not have those resources. The next model looked at was technology enabled, which meant very sophisticated classrooms and more effective teaching than before. The third one was blended learning, which was a high level of teaching and facilitated learning. An example of this would be if a learner was learning a geometric concept and if there was an online assessment, then the online would assess and signal whether the learner was coping or not, and if not, it provided information on whether the learner required additional tasks and materials. Blended learning would allow, within the time available, for diverse learner needs. The last model was called radical transformation and it was simply highly individualised and competitive. The aspiration in the long term would be to move towards blended learning, but this required large infrastructure. For the present, there was an agreement to pursue a tech enabled classroom, which meant that some level of connectivity was needed, such as electronic boards and learners with tablets and teachers with laptops. Blended learning was seen as a medium to long term goal, as it required the need to create sophisticated learning portals and sophisticated education content. In the short term, there was a need to move toward a tech enabled environment.

There had been a conscious decision taken not to use PFD textbooks as an example. The textbooks would have to be e-pub, which meant they became interactive. For example, if there was a science photograph in a science book, in an e-pub it would be illustrated as a video or simulation. Thus it was important to try to get the industry to shift towards an e-pub content vs a standard content. There were four enablers put into play, and this included E-lessons.  The Department of Basic Education had developed a whole range of lesson plans for almost all grades across the curriculum. What the education and planning policy did was to then incorporate the use of ICT in the classroom, producing the necessary videos, simulations and presentations while also creating a mini theme around topics to be taught.
Assessments had been created in order to measure quality across all the schools, given that teachers should teach and test at the correct and standardised level.

There were issues concerning the devices, delivery and learners being able to be connect on the tablets they had been given. Learners were able to access the Internet between 5am in the morning and 9pm at night, therefore it was restraint hoping it be kept in an education-bound area in order to avoid learners surfing the net for non-educational related activities.  The issue of training was that it was very easy to teach and train teachers to use a laptop and to project a presentation, but it was also important to get teachers to re-look at content for which they were responsible. The content of the format exchange gave the opportunity to refresh the content knowledge of teachers in the process, so the teacher training strategy not only got them to use laptops and smart boards, but also got them to re-look at the content in a bit more depth. There was learning evaluation. However, to counter the fact there were electronic systems, there was a system of common exams introduced across a number of grades which were set centrally and all schools then had to administer the exams. In that way, the roster of schools was standardised and in support of that, the district made sure that the curriculum was delivered according to milestones so that learners did not complain about not having covered the content. In effect, content delivery was continuously monitored by education and planning policy.

The overall approach taken in Gauteng was that there was a need to target 59 000 teachers in total, and 256 schools. Teachers would have to facilitate learning at different bases, in line with the Curriculum Assessment Policy Statement (CAPS) requirements. A lot of time and effort was required to make sure technology gets embedded into the teaching practice. Some key assumptions made in the Gauteng plan were that the intervention was primarily pro-poor, as no fee schools were being targeted. Looking at the ultimate model within the next two to three years, it would be important to set the portal environment -- plug and learn -- so that learners in a school environment were able to plug into a local area network and download material or interact with content. In no fee schools, the MTWEB solution was provided, but in schools that fell within quintile four and five, it was required that learners brought own devices. Materials and learning environment would be provided via the intervention. This meant the provision of the content platform and the content itself, as well as the training of onsite support. Currently, connectivity was provided by the Gauteng Broadband Network, which had recently begun to roll it out. There had been support from SENTECH, USAASA and other agencies.

The model highlighted not leaving behind the school administration and analytics. Therefore, there was a lot of detailed information on learner transactions in the classroom, and management was required to intervene and check whether learners were learning the correct content and at the right standard.  There was a private sector intervention called Data Driven District, which was concerned with the analytics around the school. There had been a rollout to seven schools where there had been an N2N solution fitted into every single classroom. Two smart boards and LED boards had been provided. Every single school had also been refurbished, and this refurbishing was aligned with the national norms and standards of schools infrastructure.

A focus on seven schools had been launched in January 2015 and already covered 7 000 learners, with connectivity being provided. Broadband was also provided to every single school from the Gauteng Broadband Network. Also provided were devices, content and security, management solutions, professional development and maintenance and support. There was a service sector created in the school, using unemployed youths who had been trained in order to support teachers and learners to make sure the devices were always well connected and the classrooms were online. In total, 241 laptops had been delivered to teachers, 5 589 tablets to learners, eBooks downloaded to all laptops and tablets, and 200 classrooms configured. Backup had been provided by Telkom Centre. Sim cards and data were bought and provided for learners so that they were able to commence at 5am and stop at 9pm at night.

The most important thing was when evaluations for Grade 12 learners were carried out, there had been positive responses. One of the biggest positives drawn from the seven schools was the early arrival and late departures of teachers. Learners arrived on time and there was no going home early, as learners remained in school because of connectivity and the interactive environment. It was found that the environment in the school became more conducive to learning and to a large extent, teachers were starting to overcome the fear of using technology. In the previous project run, called Gauteng Online, one of the biggest inhibitors were the teachers and principals, who reasoned that they do not want to be held responsible for any damage. Parents and learners were then made to sign out for the tablets, rather than leave them at the school.  

Phase two towards the middle of year had resulted in a rollout of Grade 12 classrooms and all matric classes being refurbished. In the next three to four year period, most classrooms would be furnished, and this also dealt with toilets and other environmental issues. Added on was an incentive to township schools that if a school achieved a 100% pass rate, they were entitled to get the full solution. The system now became incentive and merit based.  In this process, 22 schools had been identified and these schools were in the process of moving towards a complete solution.

An expansion had been launched in July 2015, covering over 64 000 learners in 377 schools. 1 861 classrooms and over 7 000 teachers had to be trained. No schools were connected due to broadband issues. It was then regarded that as a way to compensate for the lack of broadband connectivity, a mini server for the boards had to be bought and installed in the schools. Therefore, as it now stands, every classroom has a content server rather than a single server driven by environment connectivity. One of the Phase Two successes was that the district was brought in as a major complement to the solution, and now every single teacher centre has been upgraded to resemble what a normal classroom would look like. Then there was a move to the matric intellect revision programme, where a supplementary programme was run on Saturdays and during school holidays in schools with ICT.  

Other challenges included dealing with more teachers so relationships became less personal. What was encountered quite often was a high level of resistance from teachers. Also, the pace of the teacher training was found to be too fast and therefore had to be slowed down. Phase 3 dealt with Grade 11 during 2016/17, Grade 10 and Grade 9 in 2017/18 and Grade 8 in 2018/19. The current focus was only on high schools and a range of departments had been on board, including the provincial Department of Finance, Infrastructure Development and the Department of Basic Education, Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services and USAASA and the State Information Technology Agency (SITA).

There were also provincial agencies and municipalities coming in to assist where they could. A key issue that remained was the theft of devices. Teacher laptops, learner tablets and LED boards had become the top stolen items in schools, and as a result security had had to be brought in which has introduced a new cost factor to the intervention. Tracking devices had also been bought to help in recovering LED boards, and this had been proven successful as four boards had been recovered, but this accounted for an additional cost to the project. Damage was also a concern. Tablets fall and screens crack, and when recovered at the end of the year, approximately 15 000 of the 64 000 had some kind of damage that needed to be repaired.

With regard to connectivity challenges, there was no dedicated broadband. The provincial department which was responsible for the broadband would deliver to schools progressively. The target for delivering connectivity to schools was 100 schools in the Phase One period, which could see the project taking a long time to be completed. The use of Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMPs) was costly, because it involved Vodacom, MTN and Cell C, where users pay per megabyte (MB). There was a problem with African languages, and the utilisation of devices for the right purposes. In some instances, learners would take devices to the Vodacom shop, for example, and would have it refreshed, which meant that all the educational software previously installed was wiped off. It was important that communication was established with network providers so they knew they should not refresh learner tablets, as that was the responsibility of Education and Planning Policy. There was a need for dedicated funding for the replenishing and replacing cost.

Five high level recommendations had been proposed. The first one was that the national and provincial treasuries understand the importance of the intervention and thus dedicated funding for the rollout could be secured. The connectivity issue needed to be resolved with all the key stakeholders, as currently there were far too many government agencies in the terrain, thus responsibilities were blurred. Thirdly, the development of content needed to be prioritised, and this went beyond the textbooks. There was a need to secure teacher union support for intensive teacher training. Lastly, SAPS need to prioritise the reported cases of theft. The key issue at present was that when theft was reported, parents were often told that it was not an important matter. Some level of help was needed from the SAPS in order to treat theft as a top priority, as this contributed to the solution of the challenge.

Co-Chairperson Ms Kubayi took over the process from here, and thanked presenters for their presentations. It was important to see the link of the connectivity having an impact on the quality of teaching and learning. What was the impact of connectivity on the classrooms? The issues of training and retraining teachers and content had been well addressed. Moving forward, it was important that quality education was delivered to learners.

Mr E Siwela (ANC) said that a number of schools were said to be connected and hopefully the numbers that had been presented included schools that had the hardware (equipment), but with no connectivity. Computers had been given to a school by a certain company, but the computers were sitting unused and unconnected. Perhaps service providers had given statistics of schools being connected, but these numbers did not include schools where computers had been 'dumped' and not necessarily connected. With regard to the nominated schools, what happened to schools that had been nominated, but had been found to lack storage for the computers -- did the Department discard them or did it find alternatives ways to somehow assist the schools in trying to get the computers to them? He asked Mr Chanee whether the intervention with regards to the tablets and all resources supplied to the schools had been found to have impacted positively on the performance of Gauteng schools.

Mr D Mnguni (ANC) asked what relation the provincial steering committee had in relation to schools’ connectivity, and at what level were they accountable. Also, what was the issue of their school visits programme? Were reports issued to the relevant Department with regards to infrastructure? This was because when visiting schools, infrastructure was found to be present, but functionality was not up to a good standard. Was there an expert that was able to assist schools when it came to problems of ICT – for example, a system crashing and so forth? The last question was the concern for schools with no electricity, particularly in Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape. Were schools affected given support, and if so, what kind of support was given?

Mr G Davis (DA) asked the Department of Basic Education about the training of teachers. As highlighted in the presentation, 26% of teachers had basic skills in ICT, so what  was being done to train the remaining  74% and specifically, by what date would all teachers be fully trained in ICT and e-learning? Additionally, what were the universities and colleges doing in order to ensure that new teachers left tertiary education equipped for e-learning? He asked the Gauteng Department if it was correct to be targeting no fee school with the rollout devices. The policy highlighted that quintiles four and five had a “bring your own device” (BYOD) set up, but what happened to poor children from disadvantaged backgrounds who attended schools in quintiles four and five -- what was the solution for those children? The last question was on unions. A slide had stated that "no moves can be made in any schools until the changes and processes have been agreed with teacher unions". More clarity was needed on what the statement meant -- why did the unions have to agree with every single step in the ICT rollout, and had there been any resistance from the unions up to this point?

Ms M Shinn (DA) questioned the budget. How would the phases be paid for, and was there an idea of how much Phase One was going to cost? How would the budget be split between the various departments? She assumed the DBE and provincial education would contribute funds? Was there an idea of what was needed to achieve the stated targets and where the money was coming from, and whether it had been allocated in the current budget? The targets for connectivity should be 50% of schools connected within the next 30 days.  Telkom had been appointed as the technical service provider, hence the delay in the implementation of the network. Was there a revised target of when the network needed to be connected?

It was surprising that the SABC played very little role in broadcasting education given that the SABC had dedicated channels, and they were the public broadcaster. The SABC was meant to have dedicated channels for the intervention, so why was there a delay? Another question was whether tablets were economically sustainable and supported. The brand new equipment delivered this year could easily be outdated in two years, so this became a rolling cost. Was it going to be budgeted for in alternate years or did learners have to bring their own devices after the period? Also, there was no mention of interactive white boards, as they were an effective tool -- were they being considered? The 20GB cap for broadband connectivity was a bit small if interactive classes were to be carried out. More clarity was needed on why the cap had been set at 20GB.

Ms H Boshoff (DA) raised the issue of teacher training. One of the biggest stumbling blocks was that many teachers were not well trained and most of them, especially the older generation, were scared to be trained now. The other concern was IT specialists on site -- if anything went wrong, especially in quintile 1 and 2 schools in rural areas, there was normally no IT specialist on site. Were classes going to stop? There should be a provision that schools could share specialists. The Department of Telecommunications had spoken about the 20GB cap related to e- rate funding, but her concern was where the money was coming from. For example it could not be expected for a poor school in Limpopo to dish up funding for this specific cause without dedicated funding. Requested was an updated list of where the schools were located, for better planning and oversight.

Ms Boshoff asked to know about the targeting of no fee schools. Special education needs (LSEN) schools were fee paying schools and this was a big concern, because many disadvantage children attended LSEN and full service schools. How was ICT going to be implemented in these schools, given that they were fee paying schools, because how were the parents going to be able to afford any of the ICT equipment? With regard to the training of teachers in these schools, what training programmes had been put in place for the teachers?

Mr H Khosa (ANC) questioned whether teachers’ centres were easily accessible, as in some areas it happened that principals had difficulties accessing their districts. The second question was a security concern -- most rural schools did not have security, and given the resources spoken of in the intervention, security was needed so what plans were there to ensure that all schools under the Department of Education had some form of security. There had been a situation where schools were given laptops where the laptops were required to stay at the principal’s home -- did this not then put the principal’s private property at risk?

Mr C Mackenzie (DA) said the presentations had given a huge idea of the complexities of the schools’ connectivity project and the number of role players involved from provincial to national level. Was there not a department, body or forum that was the champion of the project to take overall responsibility and be accountable for the delivery, the setting and achievement of targets, and ultimately responsibility for non-delivery if it occurred? Secondly, a question for the Gauteng Department, in terms of tablet-based learning -- was there any research that supported the use of tablets exclusively as a learning mechanism i.e as a replacement for textbook-based learning? As part of oversight, there had been a visit to Rivonia Primary and Bryanston Parallel Medium. Both schools perform exceptionally well and provide a good level of education for their learners. Headmasters from both schools had said they could not use only the tablets, but had to use a combination of both textbooks and tablets.

Ms D Tsotsetsi (ANC) posed a question for the provincial committee which meets regularly on Mondays. Was there any evidence to substantiate what had been reported and also were there some indicators to help in assessing the process? The process could have unintended consequences if they excluded 'needy schools'. Was there a specific time frame for when infrastructure would be installed in the schools to avoid issues? She was pleased with schools being connected, but nothing was said on compliance with the transformation policy that aimed to narrow the gaps and address the legacies of the past. There was a need for a breakdown in terms of race and gender, as previously ICT was for a certain race. She did not need information on black and white, but actual demographics in order to be able to assess to what extent the legacies of the past had been addressed. There was also the gender issue – she would like all gender issues to be balanced. Her last question was on the reluctance of teachers to go to rural areas. Was the anticipated innovation to attract teachers to go to rural areas to make sure that they were not forever excluded? Moreover, how realistic was the target of training all teachers by 2019?

Ms L Maseko (ANC) raised concerns about who the leader and driver of the whole process was. Was it national or was it provincial (Gauteng)? Also, who attended and paid for the meetings, or were they on a rotational basis? Sometimes departments sent in low levels employees as representatives and these employees had very little impact at those meetings. In one presentation it was mentioned that the principal did not want to accept liability for the contract, therefore the learner or parent was responsible for signing the contract. A broken device was approximately expensive to repair or replace -- who was responsible for paying for the damage -- was it the parent, learner or the Department? On the issue of the safety of the tablets, how effective was insurance, besides the tracking device? If tablets were taken home, learners may be prone to being robbed, so was there insurance for them?

Ms J Kilian (ANC) was concerned that in the process, accountability and clear responsibility was accepted by the both national departments involved -- Basic Education and Telecommunications and Postal Services -- as well as by USAASA and ICASA. It was important to stress that if the process was successful, sustainability was key.  Looking at the 2010 usage, it was clear that some schools had connectivity; it was important to define what connectivity meant. Did it mean wifi or broadband? If one went beyond the 20GB cap, what must happen, as most schools were poor? An urban/rural split had been highlighted in the presentation -- learners in schools in urban areas were more likely to be connected than schools in rural areas. The intention was obviously not to design the mode in that manner, but unless the Departments took specific action over the problem, then there would be no success. It was very clear that most challenges faced were in the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. In the Free State, connectivity had moved beyond 50%. The number of learners benefiting showed that Limpopo and the North West were nowhere on the radar, the Northern Cape was low, but the province was not highly populated. What should be shown was the percentage of learners in schools, so that it could be clearly highlighted where the biggest challenge was. Lastly, there was the issue of the e-rate, post the 20GB cap -- most schools in poor communities could become hubs in their communities. Were the Departments making sure that connected schools became community hubs? In as much as this may pose a security risk, schools could become community hubs and access points for internet. This may result in the protection of the investment made by the government in those schools so that the community, and not only the learners, could benefit from the process.

Mr T Khoza (ANC) asked a question on the issue of security; security was a shared responsibility among everyone in communities to take care of schools and be able to help guard the schools. ICT programmes at schools would make learning more interesting to learners and address the issue of dropouts. The time limitation on the internet of 5am to 9pm was worrying, as some learners wake up at 2am to study and it would therefore be a problem if they could not access the internet at that time.

Ms J Basson (ANC), speaking from a rural background, said some places did not have networks and they had 3G gadgets which were too slow. Was it not possible to upgrade from 3G to perhaps 4G for higher speed? Even learners in urban areas did not want 3G gadgets. Secondly, looking at rural and inclusive learners with special needs, the impact on ICT on learners had been highlighted, but how were special needs leaners and educators catered for to be able to catch up with the new technology?

Ms Maseko asked if there was a plan to include or train parents at some stage.

Ms N Ndongeni (ANC) asked if the Department could highlight the criteria which had been used to select the teachers’ centres. Secondly, were teachers benefiting from the centres in terms of teacher development, and what was the impact of those centres on the performance of learners in annual national assessments and in the National Senior Certificate?

The co-Chairperson said that based on the presentations from both Departments, Operation Phakisa had provided an opportunity to review how things had been done. The challenge that remained confusing was what the impact on the June 2014 Gazette to the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) was, because if targets were already set and issued, they were already working on it. When looking back and revising areas where ICASA was to come in, must they wait or would they be proceeding with the current implementation of the 1 500 schools given – 1 000 given to MTN and 500 shared among the remaining network service providers. There were issues of corporate social investments (CSIs), where a particular company went to schools to donate gadgets and laptops, but that was not connectivity.

Funding shortfalls were being picked up, and if looking at universal service funds, at USAASA, the issue was not catered for.  There was a plan of three months by Mobile Operator Networks, then the remaining two years assisted by USAASA, but then what happened? There was the issue of the life span of the gadgets and servicing the network which, if not serviced, became slow. These effects were seen in 2010 from Telkom. Additionally, was there a call centre? If Cell-C connected, did the school then contact Cell-C for support? How did USAASA provide technical support so that when there were problems, the school knew who to contact. Would there be a national call centre for all the schools?  The two Departments must go back and relook at funding. If a school’s budget was being utilised for textbooks, and if they were being replaced, what process was to be carried out? It was not very clear how funding and support at schools would be dealt with.

Co-Chairperson Ms Gina stated that the issue of funding had been raised by almost all Members. The presentation had highlighted that ICASA needed to work and finalise the funding model by the end of March 2016. She was interested to hear ICASA’s input on what it was that they were working on, and how they planned to assist in funding schools.
Response from the Department of Telecommunications and Postal Services
Mr Mweli said the Department had been told to find money within the existing budgets. One of the sources of funding was that the deployment of ICT was also associated with bringing some efficiency into the system. For instance, there were ongoing discussions with the Treasury, but unfortunately provinces which were ahead -- Gauteng and the Western Cape -- might not have the full benefit of that, as they were ahead. The other seven provinces would have to catch up with the two leading provinces in order to get the maximum benefits. It was important to use economic power in maximising economies of scale. There was a desire to move money from the Learning and Teaching Support Material (LTSM) policy to the deployment of ICT, and Gauteng had already started doing this. Mr Kubayi’s issue related to the life span of devices was rightfully raised -- whichever procurement model engaged with must take that into account so that gadgets did not become obsolete and end up being of no use. The preferred arrangement would be to get a model that afforded the replacement of devices at a minimal cost over time. Devices become obsolete as soon as deployment begins, therefore the strategies implemented needed to take that into account. 

In terms of clarity related to the question of role players, guidelines were being finalised on the deployment and utilisation of ICT in the sector. Various departments would help in guiding the sector as to how to communicate with barriers present. Legal experts had advised to convert barriers into guidelines instead of regulations, because there might be a 'double-edged sword’, as negotiations could be difficult in terms of implementation. Guidelines should be able to guide the entire sector in showing how ICT should be used in the basic education sector and used to communicate with other key players that were involved in the ICT field. 

With the advent of Operation Phakisa, there might be a reconsideration to renegotiate in anticipation of the end period, and then to look at something different in order to make sure that the Department was in line with meeting its own targets for Operation Phakisa. By 2019, all schools should be connected, linking the capacity of teachers to the same timeline. The timeline was 2019, whether it was connectivity or capacity building -- it was important to bring everything up to speed with the plan of 2019. Coincidently, Gauteng was also moving along with the planned timeframe of 2019. 

The improvement of learning factors in the Annual National Assessment (ANA) and the National Senior Certificate could be attributed to many different factors. As pointed out by Mr Chanee, ICT was not the end but  the means to an end -- it was a platform to enhance teacher competency and access to information, it was not the silver bullet. Microsoft had indicated in Botswana that it was in the best interest of a any education system to use ICT, such as tablets and laptops, side by side with traditional textbooks as the two would not replace each other, but instead should be used together. First world countries like Italy, for example, used both textbooks and e-learning. 

Another question asked was whether the teachers used the centres. The answer was yes; the rate of the utilisation was often tracked. The usage had started quite slowly, but now it was starting to pick up. The best way to enhance the utilisation of the centres was to place in them what teachers needed most from them, particularly content. It placed an obligation on them to visit the centres and find access in terms of the curriculum content they required.  

In choosing the eight districts, one of the particular criteria used was the rurality of the area and the size of the district.  The districts were also about encapsulating a host of other services of government, including schools, hospitals and local government services. The criteria were about creating an ICT network to enhance service delivery from various government departments, and not only education and health. 

Responded on the issue of 3G, he said that 3G was not a permanent solution. Looking at capacity, if an upgrade was possible, that was the existing solution. From the council of education ministers, it had been directed that LSEN and schools in rural areas should be targeted, meaning they would form a core part of the schools which were covered in terms of rolling out ICT and enhancing schools’ connectivity. 

He emphasised the importance of community ownership. In India, for example, there was poverty and ICT was placed in the centre of community facilities among the members of civil society and learners. Instead of destroying the equipment, both young and old found pleasure in using it. This was something that needed to be cultivated in South Africa. He highly doubted that there would be a stage where full security was provided for each and every single school, so shared community ownership was crucial. Difficult choices would have to be made on whether security was prioritised or other things that were going to add more value to improving learner outcomes. Security was a big issue and any input on how to deal with it was welcome. The gadgets and equipment being stolen undermined the government’s work. 

He agreed with Ms Killian that schools must be centres of community life. For example, this was seen with libraries and hopefully would be seen within the schools’ connectivity process, including teachers’ centres as well. Accountability and responsibilities must be made clear so that when at meetings the key players in charge would be helped with accountability. The rural and urban divide did exist, but the policy did aim to address this. 

On the question of incentives for teachers, he said that finding incentives for teachers had been difficult. It was safe to say that if the process was taken to rural areas, that might be an incentive for teachers. Also, there was a policy for incentives for teachers who worked in difficult areas. The policy had not been as successful as desired, but it was there and success often varied from one project to another. For instance, it was extremely successful in the North West, but where it was difficult to attract teachers, a grant was then attached as a form of incentive to work in those areas. In KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo, teachers often went there, but they commuted and did not stay there. This then created other problems, but the policy was there. 

Responding to Mr Mackenzie, he again highlighted that ICT was not a silver bullet, but rather an enabler. There was an overall driving forum, which was constituted of Deputy Ministers. There was also a forum constituted by Deputy Director Generals, and involving other officials to make sure that ICT did happen. 

Teacher centres were accessible, and those connected were found to be extremely successful. However, this could vary from one province to the other. 

There was a pro-poor policy, but a response had been given with regard to learners with special needs and rural area schools. 

Regarding teacher development programmes, a centre in Gauteng provided for teachers and learners with special education needs, and it had special devices for teachers of special needs. It was made sure that it was in close proximity to schools which provided for learners with special needs. 

There was a list of centres and the list would be provided. Regarding IT specialists on site, given the fiscal constraints, it was difficult to comment on the issue, but a point would be reached where every school had an IT specialist. They were looking for some kind of shared service that could serve a cluster of school for starters, and over time then there would probably be an IT specialist for every centre. The teachers’ self-diagnostic assessment could help teachers identify areas of development. 

There had not been a strong working relationship with the SABC. As highlighted in the presentation, there were meetings that were starting to happen now with the SABC in order to ensure the use of the broadcaster to benefit learners. The Learner Teacher Support Material (LTSM) budget had been moved towards ICT, and the figures would be revealed by the Department of Telecommunications. Structures from the Deputy's Ministers forum were in place to coordinate all players involved to make sure that the impact of shared resources was available. 

The 74%, as highlighted by Mr Davis, was shown in the 2019 plan and it was up to Members to hold the Department accountable for this. Higher education was much better than before. There had been a meeting with universities where key issues would be addressed, including literacy and numeracy that was desired to be encapsulated into the place, including African languages. 

Mr Mweli said that when looking at the current status and history, the vision for schools’ connectivity had been outlined so as to not abandon what had been previously done in schools. New connectivity was providing a good environment for schools, and also the earlier adoption of resources being provided. The breakdown of the rural and urban divide was still skewed towards urban areas, but an approach had been taken on intervening and fixing this issue. 

In schools where there was only hardware, that was not connectivity. Various elements needed to happen simultaneously for connectivity to take place -- the provision of content, training of teachers, etc, that was connectivity. There were schools that had computers donated through Corporate Social Investments (CSIs), but this was not classed as connectivity. 

The issue of dealing with the provincial steering committees and their impact had been helpful, as all stakeholders had been brought into one room, and all challenges addressed effectively. The steering committees also helped in the monitoring, because service providers became part of the steering committees as well. There were other issues pertaining to the issues of connectivity outlined in the targets set out. It had been desired to start out the process in 2015 and engage with the various stakeholders to start the project quickly. There had been a lot of preparatory work done by the steering committee at schools so that by the time the project was ready to start, then that would be done quickly. 

On the cap limit of 20GB, the rationale of that was the limited availability of funds. With interventions going forward from a broadband point of view, there was a focus on the technologies that were sustainable and could provide maximum capacity. If funds were available, then the limitation could be looked into again. There was also a question of whether there was evidence from the universal obligation committee, whether they were helpful. They brought all the stakeholders together. They universal obligations had been rolled out far ahead of time in order to address issues that were had with regard to schools’ connectivity. Regarding responsibility and accountability, the relationship was very integrated but there was a clear set of responsibilities of who needed to do what.

The provincial departments were in charge of choosing the schools, and then the service providers provided the feedback and if there were any challenges, then these were highlighted. Other issues raised were that of affordability, the process of the department to review the policy on ICT, and the issue of universal service obligations. That was being reviewed with in the hope of trying to find a more sustainable target in looking at licenses on operators, thus giving the government a chance to intervene and become more helpful and effective. 

Moving from 3G to 4G was being looked at, as the need for high speed was important. 

Response from the Gauteng Department of Education
Mr Chanee referred to the issue of infrastructure and poor functionality, and said it had been clear from the start that rehabilitation was critical in modernising the classroom. Due to the high demand in Gauteng and migration, mobile schools had had to be built over a period of time. Mobile classrooms had had to be replaced with alternate construction technology as a way to protect the existing infrastructure. With regard to IT specialists, there were 100 technicians who were employed to support schools -- a ratio of 1:20. The employed staff were very localised, but that being said, there had been an internship brought in of a further 200 that would be school based. They would work on clusters of schools or specific schools based on the rollout.  They would work via a supervisory relationship, as they were on an internship. The 100 IT specialists would act as supervisors to the new interns. There was an intention to build clusters of service centres in order to ensure that schools could be supported. At the same time, there was a provincial schools centre that dealt with emergency calls from schools.

When teachers were trained on the use of technology, the lesson plan was use an electronic white board with this content and a tablet. If all failed, one could use a textbook or worksheets and so on. Every teacher needed to have a back-up to ensure that time was not wasted, and that was also part of the training provided. There always needed to be a back-up. In all classrooms and facilities, there were generators in place to ensure that there was back-up, which was essentially maintained. 

In addressing unions, there had been no resistance. They had made sure unions were part of the project, and there had been a good relationship built up. What was the useful life of a tablet? The useful life of a tablet was based on the software of the device, and in the general market now it was expected that the software on a tablet would be serviced for a minimum of five years. Therefore, it was very often that the lifespan of a tablet was two years, because of the lifespan of the contract from the service providers. There was a move towards an open source platform, which clearly highlighted that there was no limit on the platform except for wear and tear and damage, so this fell under replacement issues. When dealing with the replacement model, it would have to represent progress. Every year, one get would get replacements, which would make it more sustainable over time. 

The issue of ICT in special schools required a bit more planning because of the continuum of special needs in those schools. For children that were paraplegic or quadriplegic, sophisticated equipment was crucial. It required much more vocational integrated software and equipment so that skills could be learnt in the particular process. It depended on the continuum, and this took good teachers to help understand what was required. It was important to look at the programme design. The monitoring system needed to take place in schools and gain momentum. One of the problems in schools had been the transaction between the learner and the teacher -- they did not connect.

There was a baseline study at some schools where every quarter was compared to the previous year, but there were different cohorts, therefore the study had to be sophisticated because if comparing Grade 6 results in 2015 to 2016, there were different learners and thus changes could not be made. However one could understand that a school was performing more optimally, but whether there was real change in the learning required a study designed to trace individual learners.

During December, before closing, because of the large rollout and risk, equipment had to be protected. Most of thefts were by syndicates, not petty thieves, hence the police had been asked to come on board. There were people who knew the programme had been rolled out, they knew the quantities in schools and they know what the market re-sale value was. For example, the LED boards were 4 000k specifications, and with very few modifications they were a nice TV to have at home. People were going after the equipment. Last year, these were removed from schools into a warehouse and delivered back to schools when needed. With the connected tablets, learners had to hand them back in at the end of the year, putting in new content and refreshing the software. Teachers were not expected to keep these at their homes. New units had market value, but second hand ones did not, therefore it was important for equipment to be used as this made it less likely to get stolen.

The use of tablets exclusively was not a solution. This was the reason why tablets had not been introduced in primary schools. It was believed that basic numeracy and literacy were essential in the primary school phase and this would be protected to be a highly teacher-based system. On the issue of liability, there was some responsibility taken on, but equipment would become assets of the school which then made it a shared responsibility, as if it was made a private asset then often it was easy not to be cautious. 

Mr Mtaneb Ntsebi, Chief School Director, emphasised that it would be useless if ICT was introduced into schools and there were no positive learner outcomes. The approach was to change the classroom practice and bring about excitement and innovation in the classroom, as well as unlocking inefficiencies such as teachers having to write on the chalkboard and clean it off, etc. Where there was an introduction of ICT, there should be a reduction in the cost of LTSM. In closing, on security, learners, parents and schools needed to be held liable.

There had been development of specifications for special needs schools and these had been shared with partners. This included assuring the supply of equipment such as speech recognition devices and software for screen magnification for visually impaired learners. The specifications were present and partners were aware that when schools were being connected, these specifications needed to be met. Given that 26% teachers had basic ICT skills by 2019 it was targeted that all teachers in the system would be trained. Instead of saying every learner, it was said every school; instead of every teacher, it was said every school, meaning that by 2019 every school must have trained teachers. This may not a be a full complement of teachers, but it would no longer be two teachers trained for the whole school and they become champions -- at least 20% of staff must be trained by 2019. Operation Phakisa matched certain targets that must be attained in a certain time. The targets set need to be in aligned with targets set by South Africa Connect, and there was constant engagement to see how this could be achieved. Lastly, there was the role of universities. Operation Phakisa recommended that there needed to be norms and standards set out for ICT training so that teachers had competences and skills when they entered a teaching space. The initial start should not be training them, but concern should rather be about teachers already in the system, as teachers who were new to the system should come already equipped with the necessary skills to integrate ICT into their teaching practices. Norms and standards should be developed as a matter of urgency.

Mr Ngwepe said the question that remained for ICASA was the funding model. The model related to the schools subjected to the regulations and standards published by ICASA. It was also important to emphasise that the issue of sustainability for school connectivity required a much more long term intervention. Having said that, there were things that should be considered in the short to medium term, ICASA aimed to perhaps look at broadening the obligation imposed on operators, meaning that once a school had been connected by an operator then the operator was responsible for keeping the school connected for the duration of the license. This would probably go some way towards trying to deal with the fiscal constraints, for example.

As part of the consideration, this then also burdened the regulators because it meant that while previously their obligation reached as far as point x, now they would have to move to point y, which increased their costs. It was also important to consider whether there were other areas where relief could be provided to offset the increased burden, which would require consulting with USAASA, Treasury and the Department of Basic Education and the Department of Telecommunications. As it currently stood, there was no final solution. However, there were considerations to be looked into by the council. 

Mr Cawe said the first question was whether USAASA could have its own call centre. That was an area that USAASA would want to keep at the national call centre level. There was another question on how schools without electricity had been dealt with. Out of the six districts where installations had been done, there had been no schools without electricity. However, if a situation were to arise then looking at places such as the Northern Cape, solar panels could present as a solution. The area talked about was the area of accountability because of the different stakeholders and what their key responsibilities were in relation to the project. This needed to be looked into more closely to assess the levels of accountability and synergies. 

USAASA was interested in looking at the Indian model and seeing how it could be used in the South African context. Even with the 20GB, it was important that this cap be exhausted, as it was important to avoid cases where there was only a 2% usage of data in some cases. A community-based approach could address issues of fear of underutilisation of data. In Pretoria, parks had been converted into wifi centres, and often found was a cluster of people in those parks, which was very interesting. Was there enough empirical research done to correlate whether the use of tablets was an ultimate? Using tablets with the traditional method of learning was something that should be looked into. 

Ms Tsotetsi said a question she previously asked had been misunderstood. The question was about infrastructure in needy schools -- was there a concrete plan and timeframe to install infrastructure? She wanted to know the plan and time frame to install infrastructure. 

Ms Shinn asked what the budget for schools to be connected by the end of 2019 was, meaning how much money had been requested from the National Treasury? There was an awful lot of private sector investment in schools -- was there an idea maybe being entertained that there could be tax incentives for corporate South Africa, and that if they put money into supporting the project, they could yield some sort of benefit. This was after all their future employees. 

Ms Maseko asked for a response on her question regarding the plan to include parents. 

Mr Mweli apologised to Ms Tsotetsi, saying the question about the budget was very specific, particularly on Operation Phakisa, and therefore might need to be revisited later via a written response. 

Mr Chanee responded on the issue of parents. There had been a parental education programme in Gauteng over the last five to six years. The programme had been modified to include ICT. When schools were identified for the rollout, not only was there a parents’ meeting but also for the community as a whole, to make them aware about the project that was to take place. The Department could not be responsible for training parents in ICT, but parents were trained on the basic measures of how to manage the time of the learner at home. While the learner had the right to privacy and password control, the parent had the password too. It was important that parents understood these particular components. Key to strategy was to have meetings with the entire schools’ governing bodies, then with teachers, principals and parents.  It was important that the parents understood the demands and curriculum of the content and school and how they fitted into the framework. 

On the issue of budget, as a provincial department categories could be given of where the money came from. The refurbishment of schools was part of the infrastructure budget -- if R400 million was spent on infrastructure, then R400 million would be spent in making sure classrooms were refurbished to the required standards. There was a need to focus on LTSM, as there was a budget to support the rollout of CAPS, and the budget had been reprioritised to deal with e-content and materials. There had always been an e-learning function built into human resources in the Department, as well as a budget to help teachers to integrate. There was a budget for teacher training, approximately R50 million being earmarked for ICT training specifically. Provincial Treasury dedicated R200 million to devices and equipment needed for connectivity. In total, R1.1 billion had been reprioritised in one year from existing money, and the R200 million from the Provincial Treasury. It was about hard choices, compensating and reprioritisng in order to pull the project off.

Co-Chairperson Kubayi said it was important to note the progress that had happened compared to 2014, when the joint committee meeting had begun. There were still some things that needed to be followed up on, and it was very clear that the issue of costs had become more paramount because if the cost to communicate or the cost of data remained very high, this made it difficult and unaffordable for these types of projects to be rolled out. The ICT policy review became more pertinent. This was not the last meeting to have -- there were some issues that needed to be picked up and cleared. There was also a need to close the gap between ICASA and USAASA. There were lessons that could be learnt from Gauteng, so that these could be applied to other provinces and oversight and assessments could be carried out. 

The meeting was adjourned. 

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