CASE STUDY: How Technology can drive Social Change in South African Classrooms
A welcomed revolution has hit our current day classrooms. Gone are the days when classrooms are merely regarded as a place to learn. Thanks to the digital age, technology has helped to create dynamic classrooms where learners are regarded as active participants in creating societal change.
But has technology truly created a change in our classrooms, and has it empowered youth to participate and lead social change? Today many classrooms around the world are equipped with smart boards, technology-based learning applications, artificial intelligence (AI), and continuously evolving virtual/mixed/augmented reality technologies. With these technological advances, education has started to take its rightful place as co-creators to foster the interconnectedness between sustainability, society and the environment.
Unfortunately, not all classrooms are on an equal footing when it comes to technology. In South Africa, despite being one of the most digitally connected countries on the African continent, as at March 2018, only 38% of South African schools had access to a computer with either limited or no connectivity. In addition, the majority of educators are ill-equipped to impart digital skills to learners, since only 26% of educators have basic ICT skills and only 7% are skilled at an intermediate competency level. So does this mean that the majority of sub-Saharan African schools are left behind as the digital divide widens and as we are therefore unable to compete or work in the knowledge economy?
Not necessarily. Despite South Africa’s alarming statistics on the lack of basic digital infrastructure, it is encouraging to see many private companies start to channel their corporate social responsibility spend into technology skills development programs. Of course this makes complete sense when one considers that at the turn of the 21st century, several countries intensified their efforts to use ICT for accelerated economic growth. This affirms the need for business to pay attention to the advances in technology as these developments directly impact the support and quality of the labour force. And since schools are a key-supplier of labour, they play a critical role in this value chain.
As a case in point, a company that embodies this ethos is Acacia Innovations Technology (AIT), a Dubai based company active in four continents globally. To celebrate their newly re-branded website, they recently partnered with Five Tulips to invest a portion of their marketing spend in Quirky30, a Public Benefit Organization (PBO) based in Langa, a township and suburb in Cape Town South Africa. Quirky30’s mission is to help previously disadvantaged communities to access the digital world through cloud computing by teaching underprivileged students how to code.
Quirky30 uses technological skills development to drive social change and in so doing, end the cycle of unemployment and poverty in South Africa. Both AIT as a corporate company and Quirky30 as a PBO entity, recognize cloud computing, the internet of things (IoT) and open data as enablers to connect stakeholders, enhance services, and improve the quality of life for all in a sustainable manner. With AIT’s corporate social investment, Quirky30 is able to continue their efforts in teaching students valuable coding skills in order to unlock current and future work opportunities.
By acknowledging the role of education in building economic and environmental sustainability in the communities it serves, alliances like these can help reclaim the right of educators, students and communities to challenge their future and demand more sustainable solutions.
About Quirky 30
Quirky30 is a Not for Profit / Public Benefit Organization that offers free training in high-value technology skills to unemployed youth, ex-offenders and offenders who are at risk of prolonged unemployment and criminal activities. Students are taught coding, digital design, entrepreneurship and cloud computing. Quirky30 uses technology education to end the cycle of poverty and crime.
About the Author:
Yolanda Gossel is the Founder and Programme Director at Five Tulips, a South African based sustainability and corporate social investment (CSI) consultancy. Five Tulips forges partnerships between communities, public and private sectors and individuals for social upliftment and preservation of our planets resources and ecosystems.
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