Tuesday, October 27, 2020

South African tech company, Jendamark Automation has come up with an e-learning solution that is for rural and lower quintile schools in South Africa, in a bid to help salvage the academic school year.

According to Jendamark’s head of Odin Education, Ajit Gopalakrishnan, “The coronavirus highlighted the immediate need to speed up digital education for remote learning, in this digital world, there is no shortage of quality educational content, but access to that content and to devices like phones or tablets is a real obstacle for many South African children”.

They developed an e-learning device that provides affordable access to curriculum-specific educational material for schools anywhere in the country. “We know data is also an issue, so our devices are pre-loaded with a set amount per learner, which can be managed as the school chooses,” explained Gopalakrishnan.

The android educational tablet, known as Omang – ‘identity’ in Sesotho is loaded with content from educational publishers, with free data supplied by leading network providers.The content on the device is specific to each school’s curriculum requirements including textbooks, approved educational websites and any e-learning platforms or apps it may already be using.

Grade 12 pupil Xhanti Qandana said: “We are excited. This is huge for us, as we come from very underprivileged homes. It’s like having a second teacher. The pre-loaded devices can be bought by schools or provincial education departments at a monthly cost of R134 per pupil, including 2GB of data and full tech support.”

“No matter where learners sit, they can still study. With the Omang device we can keep up with the times and teach beyond the classroom,” said Putsoe Modukanele, principal of Olien Secondary School in Fauresmith.

More than 600 devices have been deployed across rural Free State schools and 75 purchased for grade 12 pupils from Nelson Mandela Bay schools enrolled in the Unity in Africa Foundation’s Incubating Great Engineering Minds (iGEMS) after-school programme. Last month, Jendamark donated 114 devices to grade 11s at Nqweba Secondary in Graaff-Reinet.

Unity in Africa Foundation GM Berenice Rose said providing additional Maths and Science classes and support for iGEMS pupils had been challenging during the lockdown.

“Right now, it is very important for us to remain at the cutting edge of content delivery. Kids need to be very resilient, as their whole educational path is just obstacle after obstacle. Through our collaboration, we will be able to teach them and communicate directly through these devices, so that they can carry on with their academic progress,” she said.

Each device is personalised to the pupil’s registered subjects, with bonus website content added based on their interests and most-viewed topics online. Teachers can also upload content, including video lessons, old exam papers and notes, as well being able to set multiple-choice tests, and answer questions via safe class chat forums.

“This is not just about textbooks on tablets. This is about bringing costs down through collaboration to create a truly affordable ed-tech solution for every South African school, with no hidden costs. We want every child to have access to a world of knowledge wherever they are – at home, in the classroom, on a taxi, anywhere and anytime,” said Jendamark group MD Quinton Uren.

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