‘Chalkboards are now a thing of the past’ – Lesufi
Gauteng’s Education MEC Panyaza Lesufi says those who thought education was only for the privileged will soon be shamed.
Quite pompously and to resounding screams by thousands of matrics bused in to fill the huge hall to the rafters, MEC of education in Gauteng, Panyaza Lesufi, he declared that Tuesday will be a day that ushers in a new era of quality education in the province’s township and rural schools.
Lesufi’s department on Tuesday officially implements its “paperless classroom”, a programme that entails digitising learning and teaching through usage of tablets by pupils, LED screens replacing the chalkboard and laptop-using teachers.
Moving beyond the pilot phase that has been happening in seven schools since January, the programme is going live on Tuesday morning in 375 high schools offering grade 12, “mainly in township and rural areas”.
“As of tomorrow when you enter your classroom every learner will be given a tablet and every teacher will be given a laptop. Every classroom will remove the chalkboard,” Lesufi told the matrics that filled to capacity a hall at Grace Bible Church in Soweto.
“As from tomorrow your lives will never be the same again,” Lesufi promised the youth. “I’m proud to declare that those that thought quality education is for the privileged as from tomorrow we’ll shame them.
“Gone are those days when only that are rich will have quality education. Gone are those days when only that are rich will have devices in their classrooms.
“I’m not apologetic [in saying] we will never fix our education system until we fix our township and rural schools.”
The department bused in these pupils from schools across the province. Like a rented excited crowd, the matrics screamed in joy throughout Lesufi’s speech.
There was another round of such loud applause when Lesufi announced “every laptop and tablet will have unlimited data bundles, mahala [free],” from 5am to 9pm each day.
“Never in your life on anything related to education will you have to go out and buy data. You have free airtime to study.” Social networks were banned on the tablets, he stressed.
Lesufi told the pupils their teachers have been thoroughly trained for digital teaching. “Almost 98% sacrificed their school holidays to be trained. You will see them tomorrow.
“When they teach you that the heart is pumping, they will never give you a photocopy; you will see a heart pumping on the screen. We’re doing all these things because the future will never be the same again.
“As of tomorrow, my beautiful learners, your teacher will never give you an exercise that you have to write in an exercise book.” Pupil tablets will come in with textbooks uploaded as e-books.
Chalkboards were becoming a thing of the past in Gauteng. “If you want to see a chalkboard and duster you must go to a museum. You must not come to our school,” said Lesufi.
But Lesufi might as well have told the matrics to go to schools in neighbouring provinces if they want to see a chalkboard or any other learning and teaching devices he finds outdated.
Only in Gauteng
Digitising classrooms was not a national drive, but an initiative only steamrolling in Gauteng. Lesufi told reporters his department has spent almost R2-billion on the project so far and was eyeing to spend up to R37-billion.
At times, Lesufi sounded like a politician out on a charm offensive to secure votes when addressing the matrics. Take when he told the pupils the department was investing in developing their capacity and skills “because you’re too precious to us as government”.
After all, these matrics will make up the majority of first-time voters in local elections next year. The ruling ANC, which deployed Lesufi to his position, will want to recover lost votes in Gauteng. Its share of the ballot in Gauteng dropped by 10% to 55% in 2014.
Lesufi announced to the pupils that his department would award full four-year bursaries to matrics who take positions one to three in each school across the province. “We mean business when we say we want to empower you to position yourself for the economy of Gauteng.”
He said he wants pupils in the province to be advanced to a level that they compete with children in nations such as Russia, United Kingdom and Finland. “We have arrived.”
And in terms of the matric pass rate, all he asked for from the class of 2015 is 90%. To a resounding yes, Lesufi asked the crowd “do you promise to give me 90% nomakanjani [no matter what]?”
“We’re investing in you to change matric results [and] promote quality education in the townships.”
Lesufi also sought to put to rest reports that toilets in some of the province’s schools were in bad conditions.
Releasing his “sanitation report”, he told reporters over the last few months the department has fixed toilets in 50 “worst of the worst” schools. A total of 472 schools were being targeted to have toilets fixed.
*This article was first published by www.mg.co.za