Grade nine pupils in a school in Tembisa, Johannesburg listen attentively to their teacher as she asks them to work out an equation in a financial literacy class.
But instead of scribbling the answers down in a notebook, the pupils each work out the equation on a tablet and their answers pop up on a big computer screen at the front of the classroom.
Boitumelong Secondary School is the first of seven Gauteng township schools to “bury the chalkboard” and adopt new technology to teach.
Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi addressed media at the school on Tuesday, a day before the official launch of the project.
“Tomorrow morning in this school, we are officially burying the chalk board, we are officially burying the duster, we are officially burying the chalk,” he said.
“Gone are the days when they have to write in exercise books and hand in the assignment.”
The department hopes to roll the project out to all Gauteng township and rural schools by the end of the 2017/2018 financial year at an estimated cost of R17 billion.
All high school children will be provided with a tablet as well as grade 7 pupils in primary schools in order to train them to use the devices.
“We are making this investment so that we can compete with the best countries.
“We were influenced by the thinking of South Korea, which is the best in terms of children who can read, write and calculate.”
Township schools that scored 100 percent in the 2014 matric exams would be the first to benefit from the project.
“We want the schools which are performing, to give them the capacity to do so,” Lesufi said.
Lesufi said township pupils should not have to suffer because of where they live.
“I want to radicalise education in the township so that they can compete with any other learner.”
Each school has a pupil and teacher centre where lessons can be prepared and homework done.
A dedicated technician would be placed at each school to help iron out glitches.
The schools were provided with unlimited data, including 4G connectivity, to ensure the pupils could work from home.
The internet costs at the seven schools had been fully paid for by other government departments and the private sector.
“We as government, as the department of education, have paid nothing in terms of connectivity. We went to government departments whose mandate is connectivity and asked them to connect the schools,” he said.
“We’re quite proud that the private sector in the country, when we shared our vision with them, they came on board.”
If the power goes out, we’ll use books
Back-ups are in place for a paperless learning system which is expected to be introduced in seven Gauteng township schools on Wednesday, Gauteng education MEC Panyaza Lesufi said.
Each pupil would receive a tablet loaded with lesson plans, he told reporters at the Boitumelong Secondary School in Tembisa on Tuesday.
“We’ve got a dual system to ensure there is cover.”
If the system collapsed, or the power went out, teachers would revert to using text books, he said.
“We’ve got the highest level of connectivity so that we don’t disrupt schooling.”
The schools were provided with broadband, wireless, and 4G connectivity, he said.
The Harry Gwala Technical Centre had been opened, where pupils could take their tablets for repairs. They would get a temporary tablet while theirs was being fixed. A dedicated technician would be placed at each school to help iron out problems.
“There are still minor glitches here and there,” Lesufi admitted.
A security company had been employed to ensure safety at the schools. Two schools had already been burgled since the new technology was installed.
“All the devices have a tracking device. We told the learners, don’t risk your life if someone tries to mug you.”
Police near the schools and a security company had been mandated to track any stolen tablets.
“Everything is on a server. If the learner loses a tablet, when we replace the tablet, all the information the learner has lost can be replaced.”
On Tuesday, excited grade nines were already using the new system at the Tembisa school.
“The work is much quicker, I enjoy it,” 13-year-old Phumzile Shili said.
Koketso Mashiane, 13, said he liked the devices.
“It’s nice because we are enjoying the new technology,” he said.