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BATTLING ILLITERACY

NGO’s digital learning programme gains momentum in Eastern Cape

NGO’s digital learning programme gains momentum in Eastern Cape
Lab facilitator Lisakhanya Mbendeni helps learners at Lwandisa Primary School on 14 June 2023. (Photo: Hoseya Jubase).

Click Learning aims to empower young learners with the foundational literacy, numeracy and digital skills they need to build sustainable livelihoods.

The roll-out of a programme using digital learning to improve the reading and writing skills of Foundation Phase learners has expanded its reach in the Eastern Cape and aims to reach thousands more learners in the next few years.

“We started off in the province in 2019,” Nicola Harris, CEO of Click Learning, said in East London last week as the programme launched in more schools in Mdantsane.

Click Learning aims to empower young learners with the foundational literacy, numeracy and digital skills they need to build sustainable livelihoods.

It is an NGO that works with provincial governments and districts to provide underserviced primary schools with the technology to deploy relevant online learning programmes. The programmes offer learners the opportunity to work at their own pace through enjoyable digital activities.

Lisakhanya Mbendeni lab facilitator assisting learners at Lwandisa Primary School on 14 June 2023(Photo: Hoseya Jubase).

Click Learning started rolling out its programme slowly at schools in Duncan Village in Buffalo City in 2019, but the programme had to be stopped in 2020 because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

It is currently active in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng, Mpumalanga and Western Cape.

An international study released in May found that most Grade 4 learners in South Africa are unable to read for meaning in any language.

Read more in Daily Maverick: International study shows most Grade 4s in South Africa cannot read for meaning

Harris pointed out that Foundation Phase learners were severely affected by school closures during the pandemic and their learning outcomes could suffer for years to come.

After the pandemic, Click Learning accelerated its work in the Eastern Cape.

“We have launched in a further nine schools while we were in conversation with the [provincial] Department of Basic Education on how to make this a more formal partnership,” Harris said.

A memorandum of understanding between the provincial department and Click Learning was signed in 2022.

Action and implementation

“This has been a partnership of action and implementation,” Harris said.

The programme will be rolled out in another 20 schools in Mdantsane. 

Learners are provided with devices, either tablets or laptops, and 2,000 have been delivered in the area so far. Schools are provided with 5G connectivity through Rain, Harris explained.

She said they wanted to “supercharge the intervention” to see how big an impact technology could have on learners’ literacy.

Limise Mgwelo ( 9) busy with his tablet in class at Lwandisa Primary School during the launch of Click learning in Mdantsane, East London on 14 June 223 (Photo: Hoseya Jubase).

Harris added that their role was to create an enabling environment and get buy-in from schools and then roll out their programme in each school according to that school’s needs.

As part of the programme, 103 youth facilitators have been trained to implement the learning initiative in the Eastern Cape and 56 more will be employed in the province as the roll-out continues between July and August.

Harris said that by the end of August, Click Learning will have reached 70 schools and 34,000 learners in the Eastern Cape. In the four provinces where it operates, it plans to reach 360 schools and more than 250,000 learners by August. Over the next five years, it wants to reach one million learners.

Harris said their end goal was to reduce Click Learning’s involvement and for the department to take more responsibility for the programme.

Improvement

Learners from Equleni Junior Primary School and Lwandisa Junior Primary School in East London said that since the introduction of the Click learning programme in their schools, their writing and reading had improved.

“It was my first time using computers in 2022 and now I’ve adapted to it and I am learning new things every day,” said an eight-year-old. “I have improved now in spelling, writing and reading.

“Now I am able to do almost everything, I am able to separate words and put them together again. I want to be a pilot when I am old and these computers and tablets are assisting us to understand many things.”

Ayakha Makhosi (7) a grade 2 from Equleni Primary School using a laptop after Click learning intervention in Mdantsane, East London on 14 June 2023 ( Photo: Hoseya Jubase).

One nine-year-old learner was unable to read or write before the intervention by Click Learning, but can now read English well.

Speaking on behalf of school principals, Malumzi Njili applauded Click Learning for empowering learners in the Foundation Phase.

“We were born before technology, it is so exciting to see a Grade R learner being excited and being committed. We get very excited when we see how learners are working and learning using the computer,” Njili said.

“I believe this is fulfilling the dream of President Cyril Ramaphosa, in one of his State of the Nation speeches where he was talking about rolling out computers to schools.”

Eastern Cape Education MEC Fundile Gade said the National Department of Basic Education had identified that the state of reading and writing in SA schools was at a crisis level.

“The province decided in October last year to launch a reading strategy as a direct response to the national crisis. The reading and writing crises continue to be a pandemic in the schooling system throughout the country,” Gade said.

“We have also appointed 100 young people in the project to respond to the youth unemployment crisis.” DM

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