120 Days Down. Has Justicia Digital Learning Campus Delivered?

Justicia Digital Learning Campus in Mpumalanga’s rural Justicia village has been a proof of concept for Good Work Foundation; evidence that our unique model of digital learning campuses can disrupt the learning status quo of people living in remote villages and towns of South Africa.

120 days after the launch of the campus, many development specialists and organisations are interested in its progress. Is the Good Work Foundation model, a model that has been tested in a semi-urban setting, robust enough to operate in our most rural communities?

If it is, could the model represent a new way to tackle South Africa’s education challenges?

Since opening on March 18, 2016, here is some feedback from the 285 square meter Justicia Digital Learning Campus:

  • 54 adults from Justicia and its surrounding villages are enrolled in the yearlong adult programme, called the Bridging Academy, and the average pass rate in the information-technology literacy programme is over 90%
  • 700 scholars from three high schools, two primary schools and two preschools outsource their digital literacy to JDLC every week. The programme is called the Open Learning Academy and formal partnerships with schools have been endorsed by the Mpumalanga Department of Education, which is active in its support of a number of ICT classroom integration projects across the province
  • Mid-year monitoring and evaluation data from the Open Learning Academy in Mpumalanga province (16 schools in total) shows a grade four progress increase from the beginning of the year of 7% in English literacy and 12% in mathematics literacy
  • Justicia Digital Learning Campus employs 10 full-time team members, all recruited from Justicia and its surrounding villages and trained in advance of Justicia’s opening, at the Hazyview Digital Learning Campus
  • Via 3G networks, Justicia is connected to the Internet and delivers online learning courses to all 70 adults enrolled in the Bridging Academy programme. The primary online learning programme is a hospitality training course comprised of online learning content, including video lectures, and assessments
  • Justicia Digital Learning Campus is one of the most remote campuses in South Africa to be presenting the Barclays’ ReadytoWork online employment training portal to its adult students. The portal focuses on skills development in the following areas: work skills, people skills, money skills and entrepreneurial skills
  • All game-based learning apps that form part of the Open Learning Academy programme are presented in an offline format: facilitators download the learning material needed ahead of lessons and this strategy has led to a substantial reduction in internet costs
  • Justicia Digital Learning Campus is the only learning hub in South Africa to be implementing the Stanford Mobile Inquiry Based Learning Environment, in collaboration with professors and affiliates of Stanford University. This is an online comprehension-based learning tool
  • Justicia Digital Learning Campus has hosted the South African Schools Festival of Arts and Creativity, normally hosted in and around Nelspruit

As we ready ourselves for the launch of another digital learning campus in rural Mpumalanga, as a team we are incredibly proud of what has been achieved in the rural village of Justicia. It is an example of a model that celebrates the word “nimble”. From a single campus, with a 100% locally recruited team, off a modest budget and using digital tools (often free apps), we have set out to create a new way of learning.

Critical to the mission has been our focus on setting up collaborative partnerships with organisations passionate about both rural development and disruptive learning. Absa Bank, as part of its ‘shared growth’ mission has been a consistent supporter of our programme to up-skill school leavers, particularly in rural areas.

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Clockwise from top left: (1) Linky Nkuna (Justicia Campus Coordinator), Kate Groch (GWF CEO), Shan Varty (Co-founder, Londolozi Private Game Reserve, Trevor Manuel (Justicia campus opening keynote speaker) and Teresa van der Bank (Rhino Africa CSR Specialist); (2) Volunteers from Finland and the USA with children from Ntshuxekani Preschool; (3) Rob Sithole (Sithole Restoration Services), Kate Groch and Perry Sambo (Headmaster, Madlala High School); and (4) Nina Lim, affiliate of Stanford University’s SMILE education programme.

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Photos from inside the Open Learning Academy at Justicia Digital Learning Campus.

Additionally, Justicia campus, owing to its proximity to the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve, is supported by: Londolozi Private Game Reserve; the esiDulini Community Trust; Rhino Africa; Airlink; the All Heart Fund; the Sabi Sand Pfunanani Trust; and Charities Unlimited.

Interestingly, with the exception of Johannesburg-based Charities Unlimited, this represents one of the largest social impact collaborations with the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve as its source to date, and I believe this is an indication of a shifting need to not only focus on “education”, but to focus on “new learning” that empowers communities to access the opportunities of South Africa’s digital marketplace. The digital cloud means that rural communities have a chance to participate in the economy. That fact will change the world and – in South Africa – Good Work Foundation is proud to be leading the charge.

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Above left: Sue Garratt (Dulini Lodge), Kate Groch (GWF CEO) and Dave Varty (Londolozi Private Game Reserve) at the Hazyview Digital Learning Campus. Above right: Sazini Mojapelo (Head of Citizenship for Barclays Africa) dances at the launch of the Justicia Digital Learning Campus.

In a recent interview, Justicia Bridging Academy student, Ripfumelo Mkhatshwa said: “There is nothing that pleases me more than knowing that I am doing something that no one will ever take away from me; learning and getting qualifications of my own.”

I would like to add that the support of the community and our students, like Ripfumelo, has been in part due to an insistence, on our part, to work with, and engage, a variety of stakeholders. This includes the Mpumalanga Department of Education, Madlala High School and its forward-thinking principal Mr. Perry Sambo, as well as community development forums.

Africa is about collaboration and our approach has been one that models ubuntu. We are working with our partners to show that change is possible when like-minded people come together to collaborate.

If you have any questions about our model or the progress of Justicia Digital Learning Campus, please email info@goodworkfoundation.org.

By Kate Groch, CEO Good Work Foundation

More about Justicia Digital Learning Campus

A key driver in Good Work Foundation’s five-year growth plan is consolidating the campus model in a concentrated geographical area so that the benefits of a “multiple campus” strategy can be demonstrated.

Between 2016 and 2018 Good Work Foundation plans to add three new digital learning campuses (Justicia is the first of the three) to rural Mpumalanga province, all located close to the Greater Kruger National Park. These three new campuses will be satellites of the original Hazyview Digital Learning Campus located in Shabalala Trust.

In total four Mpumalanga-based campuses will service 500 young adults, 25 rural schools and more than 10,000 schoolchildren. This concentrated geographical strategy is critical to our ability to ensure rigorous programme monitoring and deeply understand the rural learning environments and their challenges.

Justicia village is located 30 minutes drive from the well-known Paul Kruger Gate and borders the Sabi Sand Private Game Reserve. The total population is not much more than 5000 people, all served by a single high school, two primary schools and a handful of preschools.

In villages like Justicia, Good Work Foundation’s model looks to use opportunities born out of advances in education technology to:

  • Deliver 21st Century learning opportunities to school-leavers and/or dropouts who do not have the test results or financial means to attend major tertiary institutions; and
  • Support local schools by providing them with supplementary learning environments and tools that support learning by discovery, powered by game-based learning applications

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