After months of deliberations and planning by the Department of Basic Education, the Teacher Laptop Initiative (TLI) is set to be rolled out today with a key focus on teacher training and development in ICT, computer literacy and pedagogy.
The TLI, which is managed by the Education Labour Relations Council (ELRC), addresses South Africa’s need for a quality education system.
Suppliers that have been provisionally accredited to participate in the initiative hosted displays at Lotus Gardens Primary School this afternoon. The suppliers are: Dell, HP, LG, Pinnacle, Sahara, Vodacom, MTN, Lenovo, Fujitsu Siemens, Cell C, Mecer, and Telkom.
Parthy Chetty, Director of Corporate Affairs at Intel in South Africa explained that it was a lengthy process to get the TLI to where it is today. According to Chetty, Cisco, Intel and Microsoft partnered to offer Teacher Professional Development to teachers in South Africa in 2003. They have been advising government on the need for the Teacher Laptop Initiative since 2007.
Microsoft and Intel both emphasised that the TLI was more than just providing teachers with notebook computers.
Chetty went so far as to say that the laptop in itself wouldn’t have much impact without connectivity, support, and teacher training.
Training also can’t just be basic computer literacy training, according to both Microsoft and Intel.
“When we talk about closing the digital divide, this is the only way,” Chetty said. “This is the only way you can pull South Africans up to [a world-class] level.”
Concern over costs, allowance
In a focus group held after demonstration lessons, teachers expressed concern regarding the period they’d have to wait before they can purchase the laptops, as well as the amount they would have to pay in to get one.
Teachers also expressed concern over the price of connectivity, as well as gaining permanent access to expensive equipment such as data projectors which they were provided the use of for the launch.
Government has promised a taxable monthly allowance of R130 for teachers to purchase a laptop, with the cheapest option being made available priced at R250 per month over five years. Teachers may opt to purchase a notebook computer for as much as R390 per month over five years.
A teacher said that the comment, “You won’t even feel the R120 a month,” was made and that a colleague answered that she would definitely “feel” the impact of the additional payment.
Daya Govender, Secretary General of the ELRC, said that they don’t have the answers to all the concerns yet. He emphasised that the “[Teacher Laptop Initiative] is a journey.”
Govender added that while they don’t have the money to cover the cost of the whole laptop, they could engage government to increase the allowance over time.
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