The coronavirus pandemic has revealed glaring inequalities in the South African basic education system. The measures taken by government to prevent the fast spread of the virus including closure of schools have exposed wide-ranging systemic problems including the digital divide, water shortages, overcrowded informal settlements and lack of sanitation across many environments.
With over 12 million children in South Africa attending school at over 23 765 public schools, and many coming from very disadvantaged households who cannot afford equipment to enable them to learn online, it has become quite glaring that for millions of children it’ll be impossible to learn during a lockdown.
This means that for these children to learn, they’d have to go back to school. But, going to school may not be practical if the world is yet to find a cure or a vaccine for the coronavirus. It is against this backdrop that it is encouraging that many people are doing their bit to assist the poor.
One company, an online retailer for household appliances, furniture and electronics, Teljoy is this week assisting Ironman 4 Kidz Charity Trust. The Trust, founded by former Springbok Garth Wright and Gary
Stephenson supports over 300 school children from the informal settlements and charity organisations including Heatherbank Primary School, Khayalethu Youth Centre, MTR Smit Children’s Haven and the Eastern Province Child &Youth Care Centre.
Speaking at the handover, Trust Administrator Julia Banach mentioned they have planned this donation to benefit the most vulnerable kids in the area: “For this purpose, we have targeted schools and charities with an immediate need for laptops in nearby informal settlements and children’s homes. We understand that the youngsters need to get back to learning, and quite importantly, we believe that computer education is vital for their successful development and advancement.”
Heatherbank Primary School will be the main recipient of the donation. The school currently offers education to 200 pupils from Grade 00 to Grade 7. The youngsters at Heatherbank reside in Walmer Township, which is one of the biggest informal settlements in Port Elizabeth. Due to the hard work of Chris & Ellen Lovemore, their team of teachers and sponsor support, Heatherbank, has developed into a fully functional primary school providing quality education for their learners.
CEO of Teljoy, Jonathan Hurvitz, stressed that it is only by adequate and early basic education preparation that young children may have a better chance of a successful future. He explains that, “The pandemic is re-educating humanity, the world over, with a renewed sense of empathy and a completely new approach to life. Part of that means helping those in need with sustainable solutions to help win the fight against poverty.”
With the distribution of the laptops to these schools, children will have an opportunity to continue their education even during the current lockdown, enabling them to social distance and learn while doing so. And when schools open, these children will continue to use the devices to achieve their learning goals.