MacRobert Attorneys Supports GWF’s 3000 Children-a-Week Education Revolution

In 2016, as part of its approach to corporate sustainability, MacRobert Attorneys became one of an increasing number of global organisations and thinkers to question education.

Are education systems responding to the needs of the burgeoning digital marketplace? Are they taking advantage of technology to improve access to education?  Are we able to solve developing-world education challenges using the Internet and its resources?

MacRobert has been following Good Work Foundation’s (GWF) work. GWF has spent the last ten years formulating a supplementary model of education that uses technology to overcome challenges facing teachers and pupils in rural classrooms.

GWF believes that rural schools can outsource (for free) parts of their learning to centrally-located digital learning campuses. The campuses group primary school children into pods of eight and then provide gamified learning on tablets and computers for 1,5 hours per week.

The children, coming from classes of up to 80 children per teacher, are guided through English, mathematics and environmental learning apps by adults from the community who receive specialist training to facilitate digital learning sessions.

It doesn’t sound like rocket-science, but our team at MacRobert was particularly impressed by the model’s dexterity.

3100 children per week are taking part.

The children have access to technology but it is an “offline” environment, which means bandwidth costs are kept low.

The model, in its first year, achieved improvements of over 30% in English and mathematics for grade four learners in Mpumalanga.

Best of all though, is the fact that the facilitators do not have to be qualified teachers. They are local adults who are recruited through GWF’s adult learning programme and then empowered with a yearlong course that focuses on IT skills, English skills and ICT classroom integration skills.

Inspired by the model, in 2016 MacRobert has supported 18 young people from Mpumalanga and the Free State to train to become qualified GWF facilitators. These interns are all in various stages of their training. 14 have already been fully trained and employed by the organisation as full-time facilitators, some in GWF’s adult learning programme too.

“I never thought my job would be to deliver world-class education to the children in the community where I grew up,” said Jane Madlazi, a GWF facilitator from Shabalala village who is now studying to become a professional teacher. “I love teaching because through it I get to impact a person’s life in a positive way. You never know where the next Nelson Mandela will come from.”

Another facilitator who has graduated through the MacRobert-sponsored programme is Sibusiso Mnisi whose passion is environmental learning. This year, as well as working through conservation-focused apps with grade four learners, Sibusiso has accompanied 700 grade five learners into the Kruger National Park, all of whom had never visited the Kruger before. He is also currently facilitating a second group of adult students for a six month conservation course: Introduction to Wildlife Monitoring.

“Being a teacher was always my dream and I am grateful every day because I get to live my dream,” said Sibusiso. “I love teaching because every time I teach I learn in the process. I want to become an educational environmentalist.”

South Africa needs innovative approaches to education that will improve access for people from communities who are traditionally left behind.

Good Work Foundation is not waiting for the answers, but is rather using technology and the power of community to deliver answers.

At the same time we are proud to be creating employment for individuals, like Jane, who are not only passionate about our country’s young people, but are helping to design a model that could revolutionise the way we roll out digital learning in our country.

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Learners of Tfolinhlanhla Primary School with smiles on their faces during their Conservation Academy class.

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Open Learning Academy Facilitator Glenrose Mashego reading from a tablet PC with the Open Learning Academy learners from Tfolinhlanhla Primary School.

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Conservation Academy Facilitator Floyd Mokoena giving a fun and productive lesson to Open Learning Academy learners.

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Children from Tfolinhlanhla Primary School working with GWF facilitators on English and mathematics apps at Hazyview Digital Learning Campus.

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Sibusiso Mnisi (centre) educates local children about rhino poaching as part of GWF’s environmental awareness programme.

Written by Ryan James.

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