Languages of Access: English, Digital and Life

To participate actively in the 21st Century world and its economy, young people must be proficient in English and they must be “digitally” literate. As a result, the development of Hazyview Digital Learning Centre’s (HDLC) curriculum has been driven by our mission to equip adults with the skills that will assist them to empower themselves.

The inequalities in the formal education system have never been more prominent. For example, the 200 “matriculants” entering HDLC in January 2014 tested (on average) at a Grade 6 second-language English level in an ELSA English assessment under the Kaleidoprax Programme. Furthermore, of the 200 matriculants, less than ten percent had access to practical computer literacy instruction in High School.

We cannot force individuals, but we can attempt to move those who choose to come through our doors from a place of “chance” to a place of “choice”. That might be as simple as access to a job, but it might also be the ability to enroll in online diplomas and degrees via any university in the world while sitting at home in rural Shabalala.

Accordingly, 90 percent of our current students are made-up of recent school-leavers who use the existing 12-month course as a bridging year. Included in this bridging year is:

  • The International Computer Driving License certificate – an internationally-recognised end user Microsoft Office Suite accreditation;
  • An ABET-aligned (Adult Basic Education and Training) “English for Business” post-high school programme developed in association with Anne van Zyl (former St. Stithians and Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls headmistress);
  • A leadership and life-skills programme developed by Good Work Foundation and supported by partners such as LifeCo UnLtd, Nedbank and independent teachers, entrepreneurs and volunteers.

Anne van Zyl gives feedback at an english presentation session at Hazyview Digital Learning Centre. Over the last 12 months, Anne has coordinated the English programme for rural school leavers at HDLC. With 50 years experience as an English teacher and a headmistress, the experience that Anne has brought to the programme is enormous.

The “English for Business” programme follows the “Hands-on-English” syllabus and is supplemented with magazines, debates, cartoon and topical information that is extracted from the internet, especially YouTube videos and blogs.

According to Val Ross, who is one of the course coordinators, “English for Business has been added in 2014 as a daily class that is compulsory for every student. It has been amazing to see some learners who used to leave the classroom and hide to avoid standing up and talking English in front of their peers, stand up and proudly present a seven-slide show presentation in English.”


Students attend daily, compulsory English literacy classes and use a range of media, including online and print.

The end of year oral examinations, incorporate each of the student’s subjects: IT, hospitality and English. Each student prepares a PowerPoint presentation on a hospitality-related topic and then presents to the class.


Digital. Pink. Communication. Body language. Expression. Connection to an audience. Energy. Focus. Passion. Another incredible GWF woman and student with her eye on success.

“A student who comes to mind is Thabisile Mashile,” says Val. “She is a quiet person who only speaks when she has something to say and then it is well thought out and everyone listens. She is a real example of someone with a good work ethic. I don’t think she has ever missed a class. She is determined to become a social worker and I think that with her determined attitude she will succeed. It is a career that she is well suited for and we certainly need more people with her commitment in this area.”


English coordinator – Val Ross – with her student, Thabisile Mashile.

Once a foundation of English and digital literacy has been set, students are in the position to take advantage of the HDLC campus and its Academies. The majority of our students in Hazyview – owing to our close proximity to South Africa’s most well-known wilderness areas – choose to enroll in the Hospitality Academy’s online, multimedia and internationally-recognised Lobster Ink programme, which equips students with a thorough introduction to Food and Beverage management. The programme also offers more specialised modules in wine, coffee and front-of-house management.

Students are also able to study further at the Information-Communication Technology (ICT) Academy. In addition to an Advanced Microsoft Office programme, the Academy offers CompTIA A+ certification (computer technician) and N+ certification (network technologies, installation and configuration).