By Godwin Khosa
For the past two years, the country’s education system has had to recover and adapt to new methods of learning.
Educators and thought leaders had to go back to the drawing board and find innovative solutions to meet the curriculum requirements while focusing on the safety of learners. The unequal learning loss reared its ugly head, and systems had to be put in place to address the socio-economic inequalities that are so prevalent in our society.
The National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) and the Department of Basic Education (DBE) joined forces and launched the Remote Digital Learning programme (RDL). Fast forward to 2022, the campaign continues to address systemic learning challenges, digital inequality and system capacity constraints. As they say, the proof is in the pudding, and the RDL campaign has managed to slowly assist in bridging the learning gap by understanding learners’ needs and how, where and when technology can play a role in meeting those needs and when it can’t.
The success of the campaign can be seen in its two sub-support programmes, namely Woza Matrics and the Tswelopele campaigns. These programmes provide learning continuity, curriculum catch-up, support, revision and exam preparation via multiple digital and non-digital platforms for pupils, teachers and parents. It also focuses solely on increased quantity and quality of learning in support of the classroom and remote learning.
The aim of the campaign has been to mitigate the systemic effects of structural learning loss which became a central concern in the national education system. Thus, the African adage which says it takes a village to raise a child has never been more evident than through the establishment of the RDL campaign.
As an organisation, the NECT has garnered a village of organisations and institutions from the private, public, civil society and corporate sectors to harness its resources to help schools across the country recover from lost time due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
During 2021, an average of 5.8 million viewers viewed Woza Matrics on SABC 1 per month. While last year, from March to October, Tswelopele users between the ages 4 – 65 have been reached with an average reach of 1 569 461 viewers per month. This showcases the groundwork the NECT is doing to repair the loss in learning time.
This year, 600 000 Grade 12s, including second chance learners and 600 000 GET learners, will be able to have more opportunities for psycho-social support, curriculum catch-up, revision, and exam assistance. Furthermore, 50 000 teachers and parents or caregivers will be provided with opportunities to support their learners with catch-up and revision.
Partnerships with 20 learning platforms to reach 600 000 Matrics and second chance learners are well underway. While 600 000 GET learners, 50 000 teachers and parents or caregivers will also be reached through these agreements. This showcases the RDL’s commitment towards bridging the gap between lower and higher-income households, which in turn provide equal opportunities for all.
Through innovative methods, students are able to access learning material from mobile platforms like the Chat App with the use of Velle Telegram-based platform for virtual tutoring and learner support. MTN Online School for lessons and assessments, SADAG and loveLife helplines for care and support, which have all been made accessible to provide added support.
For Grade 12s, Matric Live creates access to educational resources and examinations for 16 subjects. This is evidence that the ways of teaching and learning are changing this status quo, one instant message at a time. As a result, the NECT has jumped on board to make tailored solutions to address education inequality.
Moreover, there are weekly broadcasts on 12 radio stations across the country which focus on 624 lessons throughout the year. More resources can be viewed on the DBEtv channel 122 on Openview - South Africa’s first free-to-air channel, which supports learners, teachers and parents from the curriculum, and non-curriculum to psychosocial support and a bit of informative edutainment daily.
This year, the RDL campaign for 2022 is taking into account the changes in how we have lived for the past two years. While the problem of systemic and unequal learning loss will continue to prevail over the next few years, the focus of the RDL is to support learners before and after school hours and focuses attention on supporting teachers and parents to achieve better learning outcomes.
The RDL is informed and driven by the need to promote and enable learning continuity through learning catch-up amid significant learning losses experienced by all learners in general. For more information on these programmes follow these links: https://www.wozamatrics.co.za or https://www.tswelopele.org.za/about-us/
* Godwin Khosa is CEO of the National Education Collaboration Trust