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DBE Launches STEM Lockdown Digital School Amid Outcry Over Using Celebs To Teach Pupils

Nyakallo Tefu 

In the wake of the extended national lockdown in South Africa, 34 teachers have signed up to teach about 600 pupils online following the launch of the Coronavirus Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Lockdown Digital School. 

The STEM Digital School has been introduced to enable teachers with reliable internet connectivity to offer their services to learners in order to catch up during the lockdown period.

This initiative has been made possible by a partnership between the Sasol Foundation, Department of Basic Education and Ms Zora, an artificial intelligence-based educational platform developed by Africa Teen Geeks, and IT company, Apodytes, to support the Department of Basic Education (DBE) in its mission to pilot its coding and robotics curriculum across 200 schools this year

“We are acutely aware of the importance of keeping our children safe from all sorts of dangers, including abuse and the anxiety caused by Covid-19. In this regard, we encourage families to make use of the materials made available by our partners and those interested in seeing the basic education system continuing even under the current circumstances”, said basic education department spokesperson, Elijah Mhlanga.

The initiative has attracted media personalities in the country who have offered and volunteered to be digital readers of the e-learning materials to school learners.

They include radio and TV celebrities such as Pearl Modiadie, DJ Sbu Leope, Khaya Mthethwa, Penny Lebyane, Thuli Thabethe, Phumeza Mdabe and Somizi Mhlongo. 

Mhlanga said the department was grateful for everyone who has come on board to assist in these trying times. 

The announcement of the media personalities joining the project has been received with mixed reaction by South African’s on Twitter, with some angry commentators saying they are not qualified teachers to teach: 

https://twitter.com/naledi91347433/status/1249367147605889027?s=21

Following a wave of backlash on Twitter, Mhlanga responded to a number of tweets, clarifying the role of the celebrities involved in the project:

The virtual classrooms are offered at no cost across all school grades and sessions will be recorded and posted on the following sites: Africa Teen Geeks, Ms Zora and Department of Basic of Education.  

It is our wish as Africa Teen Geeks to reach out, not only to students with the required digital resources but to also extend our services to those in rural places who are at a disadvantage during this lockdown; therefore, we will not rest until our bad becomes better and our better becomes best,” says Lindiwe Matlali, Founder – Africa Teen Geeks.

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