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Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Access to E-learning in Rural Villages of Limpopo Highlights Stark Educational Inequalities in SA

Rolivhuwa Sadiki

Though several e-learning platforms have been created for learners to catch-up on school work during the nationwide lockdown as the country fights the COVID-19 pandemic, some parents in rural areas have no idea what it (e-learning) is and how it works, making it almost impossible to keep home schooling running.

“I have no idea what e-learning is all about. It is my first time hearing it from you,” says 30 year-old Thifhelimbilu Mamali from Maniini village outside Thohoyandou in Limpopo, who has to teach her son so that he at least does not forget the basics.

Although she owns a smartphone, she does not know how it (e-learning) works.

After showing her one of the platforms created for learners, she tells me that some of the things should have been written in her mother tongue (Tshivenda) because English is a bit hard for her.

Moreover, using the smartphone means commuting to and fro a friend’s homestead, a few metres from her home since she does not have access to electricity.

“My phone and the power bank charger have to be charged on a daily basis. I always need to be cautious of what I use it for to save the battery,” says the unemployed mother.

Mamali has been trying to assist her 8 year-old son Thandululo, who is in grade 3 in catching up with schoolwork by using textbooks, an activity that does not come easy at all.

“It is quite frustrating and a bit hard assisting him and I am short-tempered. If ever I teach him a certain activity twice and he comes back the 3rd time needing clarity, I start shouting,” she said.

For unemployed Khathutshelo Phosa whose daughter is in grade 7, when it comes to e-learning, this mother of two’s tale is the same as that of Mamalis’.

“I don’t know what e-learning is. What is that? She asked.

Phosa, 32, says her daughter has only been catching up with schoolwork by listening to learners support programmes on some of the public broadcaster’s TV channels and radio stations.

“I do have a smartphone but I have only heard that for those in high school, there are some WhatsApp groups created that enable them (learners) to catch-up with schoolwork. I was not aware that learners in primary have such materials put online,” said Phosa.

After President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the country’s lockdown on March 26, the department of basic education announced a series of online and broadcast support resources as a way of preparing children by the time they go back to school.

Some of the resources put together online for parents, caregivers and learners to support learning at home during the lockdown include study, multimedia and reading materials.

The ministry led by Minister Angie Motshekga is to stand before Cabinet this week, with proposals that could see major changes in the academic calendar.

Source: Mukurukuru Media

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