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Wednesday, July 28, 2021

UCT online high school will close the inequality gap

NYAKALLO TEFU|

As the fate of contact classes continue to hang by the thread in a world gripped by the coronavirus pandemic, the University of Cape Town (UCT) has become the first tertiary institution in Africa to offer an Online High School platform.

Speaking at a virtual press conference on Wednesday, Vice-Chancellor Mamokgethi Phakeng said affordable, quality education is the most important tool every South African needs as this will qualify them for employment or a university degree.

She said the model would democratise the education system by giving students access to the “most affordable private school” in the country “offering a high-quality education with support from expert teachers and mentors”.

Present at the briefing was UCT Chancellor Dr Precious Moloi-Motsepe, UCT Council Chairperson Babalwa Ngonyama, Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga and Western Cape Education MEC Debbie Schäfer.

Phakeng said the online high school learners will commence with online classes from January 2022. Grade 12 classes will only start in 2023.

Adding that university said applications for the online classes are officially opened.

“This is the only way we can close the inequality gap in this country,” said Phakeng.

Adding that the online high school is not only a necessity for the university sector, but for everybody in the country.

READ: 130 schools damaged by KZN Shutdown riots

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in closure of schools not only in South Africa but across the world, which has raised concerns of learners missing out on a lot.

Since the start of the pandemic, learners in South Africa have been returning to school based on the statistics of the virus and waves that have gripped the nation.

Last month, President Cyril Ramaphosa called for the closure of schools as the third wave of the virus hit South African shores, with numbers increasing drastically by the day.

READ: Schools remain shut in 19 countries including South Africa

Schools are set to reopen next week, however, that will be determined by the president’s address on whether the country will be on a different alert level.

Educators Union of South Africa’s (EUSA) spokesperson Kabelo Mahlobongwane said it is high time the country moved to other forms of teaching and learning.

“The world is moving to the Fourth Industrial Revolution and the department of basic education should follow suit,” said Mahlobongwane.

Mahlobongwane said they have been calling for the department of basic education to look at ways for teaching and learning not to only happen in classrooms, especially during a pandemic.

UCT partnered with education technology company Valenture Institute and it will be offering online a CAPS-aligned curriculum for learners in grades 8 to 12.

“This announcement is very exciting for education in South Africa. The personalised learning experience is welcome and in line with what more people are desiring,” said Western Cape MEC for Education Debbie Schäfer.

Schäfer said Covid has shown that education can be done differently and whilst it will not be for everyone at this stage, it can assist offering different options.

“I am particularly excited about the free online content and have asked the Western Cape education department to consider how we could use this in our system,” added Schäfer.

Phakeng said the university’s online high school will allow learners to have the option to attend the most affordable private school in the country offering a high quality education with support from expert teachers and mentors.

It will also include an entirely free online school platform, with a high-quality, interactive curriculum for any teacher and learner to use for a broad range of South African CAPS subjects.

“UCT will continue to be the best university in Africa, and the best university for Africa. But we will now offer a top-level high school education, not just to a select group of learners, but to all high school students on the continent,” said Phakeng.

The school has two offerings: the formal high school where students are enrolled at a fee of R2,095 a month, the second is access to a free zero-rated platform for the general public to access the curriculum without mentorship or tutoring.

Phakeng said learners will not follow a standardised teaching schedule with live classes but have asynchronous timetables and access to one-on-one as well as group sessions with teachers.

Applications for the school are open and can be accessed at www.uctonlinehighschool.com.

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