78% of South African Grade 4 learners are currently functionality illiterate. Unesco reports that the COVID-19 crisis has disrupted the learning of children at an unprecedented scale. It has magnified the pre-existing inequalities in access to meaningful literacy learning opportunities.
The rapid shift to distance learning also highlighted the country’s immense digital divide, in terms of connectivity, infrastructure, and the ability to engage with technology. To help address this challenge, Saray Khumalo, in partnership with iSchoolAfrica, iStore and the country’s largest fibre network operator, Vuma, announced the rollout of iPad Digital Libraries to an additional eight under-resourced schools. The partnership has reached more than 1 200 learners in South Africa to date through the iSchoolAfrica Digital Library Programme.
This dynamic collaboration addresses the ongoing literacy crisis and digital divide being faced by South Africa’s schools today, through a combination of high-speed, uncapped fibre connectivity provided by Vuma, iPad technology, award-winning software and teacher training.
“The digital divide has the potential to be the greatest divide of all, deepening inequalities that already exist. The iSchoolAfrica Digital Library Programme has a serious purpose – to bridge this divide for children who don’t have access to information technology and to ensure that they don’t get left behind,” says Khumalo, iSchoolAfrica mentor and the first black African woman to summit Mount Everest.
Each iSchoolAfrica Digital Library consists of a mobile iPad lab, which offers abundant fibre connectivity, ten iPads, a digital content library, teacher training and mentorship programmes. Funding of these essential facilities has also been supported by sponsors including Momentum Multiply, Syrex and Planet Fitness.
Vuma, the programme’s connectivity partner, believes that access to technology and connectivity creates exponential opportunities. “Initiatives like the rolling out of the iSchoolAfrica Digital Library Programme enable significant access to opportunities for children across South Africa, and ultimately will positively impact our country’s economy,” says Lianne Williams, head of marketing at Vuma. “Our commitment is to uplift, support, and connect communities, by identifying needs and ensuring communities are connected to the resources and assistance they need for economic inclusivity.”
On September 8 2021, Unesco’s International Literacy Day was celebrated under the theme Literacy for a human-centred recovery: Narrowing the digital divide”. In support of narrowing the digital divide for young South African learners, iSchoolAfrica, Vuma and Saray Khumalo, share the goal of bringing iSchoolAfrica Digital Libraries to more schools across Africa. The group are calling on South Africans and the corporate sector to donate and participate in addressing this critical need.
“International Literacy Day reminds us of the importance of literacy as a matter of human rights. iSchoolAfrica makes the process of learning literacy accessible, inclusive and suitable for today’s world,” concludes Michelle Lissoos, iSchoolAfrica Director.
Every donation makes a difference – if you want to contribute, please visit ischoolafrica.com/digital-libraries-programme. Corporates who would like to sponsor a primary school with a digital library should please contact Michelle@ischoolafrica.