Maverick Citizen

WEB RANGERS GUEST ESSAY

Digital divide critically holds back rural children from equal access to information and education

Digital divide critically holds back rural children from equal access to information and education
Inside Balasi primary school in Qumbu outside Mthatha on the first day of the opening of coastal schools on 19 January 2022. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla / Daily Maverick)

Access to the internet is not just a luxury for children in South Africa, it's a necessity in order to bridge the digital divide and empower them to make a difference and inspire change.

A lot of adults might argue that as a child living in South Africa, not having the internet is not the worst thing that could happen to you because we seem to have bigger problems, such as gender-based violence, load shedding, lack of access to proper education — the list goes on. However, if you are looking to us to make a difference or inspire change, then it’s time to prioritise the need for internet access for children, especially rural children.

On 6 February 2024, the world will be celebrating Safer Internet Day. A day that encourages people to use the internet more safely and responsibly. This year’s theme is titled: “Inspiring change, making a difference, managing influence and navigating change online”. However, when we look at the South African digital landscape it is difficult for most children to want to make a difference, when we are faced with challenges around access to the internet.

Read more in Daily Maverick: The right to internet access is a major part of the right to information, but Africa lags badly

One of the biggest obstacles limiting us from navigating change online is the digital divide. The digital divide is the gap between those that have access to the internet, infrastructure and resources like data and devices and those that do not. As children, we feel it affects us the most because we spend most of our time on the internet — this could be for entertainment, researching for school purposes and looking for opportunities online. Many children living in rural and semi-urban areas are affected even more by this digital divide because they are in areas that do not have sufficient infrastructure to support connectivity. In areas where there is infrastructure there are high data costs and a lack of devices to connect. So, all these factors make it almost impossible to access the internet and the information that the internet has to offer.

According to the Constitution, all children living in South Africa have the right to access to information and because the internet is a platform where we can access information, then it follows that children have the right to access the internet.

As digital child rights activists, this worries us because the children in rural areas’ right to access to information is not being fulfilled which may result in them being left behind. This is also very true when it comes to the educational opportunities that they can access.

For us children living in an urban area, when given topics to research for school assignments, we are privileged enough to be able to get home, use our fully charged device, along with our unlimited wifi to download Google and start our research. We also know our way around Google search so we can access reliable sources. We can’t say the same for our peers in rural Eastern Cape for example. This should not be the case because we are all afforded the same rights, but our reality is different because of challenges outside of our control as children.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Eastern Cape schools in ‘worse state’ than almost a decade ago

As digital child rights activists, who know the importance of the internet, we plead that our government, teachers, parents, and adults in general help us in the fight against the digital divide.

We demand efficient working devices, unlimited access to the internet and digital literacy skills for everyone. This is the only way we can end the digital divide and for children to be empowered to inspire change and make a difference because then we will have the resources and skills to do it! DM

We would like to leave you with the words of a wise woman: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller 

Edited by Phakamile Madonsela.

Tinotenda Gohodzi and Kgabisi Motene are Web Rangers. Web Rangers is a digital and media literacy programme designed to equip children (aged between 12-17 years old) with critical skills and knowledge that promote safe internet usage, combat cyber ills and disinformation, advocate for their digital rights and champion their rights in the digital world. To follow the work of Web Rangers, visit www.webrangers.co.za; www.hashplay.co.za; and WebRangersza on Instagram. 

Gallery

Comments - Please in order to comment.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

X

This article is free to read.

Sign up for free or sign in to continue reading.

Unlike our competitors, we don’t force you to pay to read the news but we do need your email address to make your experience better.


Nearly there! Create a password to finish signing up with us:

Please enter your password or get a sign in link if you’ve forgotten

Open Sesame! Thanks for signing up.

A South African Hero: You

There’s a 99.7% chance that this isn’t for you. Only 0.3% of our readers have responded to this call for action.

Those 0.3% of our readers are our hidden heroes, who are fuelling our work and impacting the lives of every South African in doing so. They’re the people who contribute to keep Daily Maverick free for all, including you.

The equation is quite simple: the more members we have, the more reporting and investigations we can do, and the greater the impact on the country.

Be part of that 0.3%. Be a Maverick. Be a Maverick Insider.

Support Daily Maverick→
Payment options

MavericKids vol 3

How can a child learn to read if they don't have a book?

81% of South African children aged 10 can't read for meaning. You can help by pre-ordering a copy of MavericKids.

For every copy sold we will donate a copy to Gift of The Givers for children in need of reading support.