The Month in Pictures #14

“When you invest in women and girls, you invest in everyone.”

We couldn’t agree more with this quote from Melinda Gates, especially given the progress of our Digital Learning Centres under the captaincy of visionary women like Linky Nkuna, Gogo Mo Groch, Gay Sibuyi, Mercyful Mathebula, Milla van Wyk and Lulani Vermeulen. In celebration of International Women’s Day (March 8), in this edition of the Month in Pictures, we share eight stories from our rural projects that celebrate access to world-class education for women and girls by women and girls.

I think that it’s an amazing feat that our Digital Learning Centres have so many female leaders, leaders who continue to drive for more change. As an example, Milla van Wyk and Lulani Vermeulen (together with their all-women team) have doubled the number of Philippolis adults enrolled in IT literacy, and their Open Learning Academy project now extends to almost every child in the suburb of Bergmanshoogte (Philippolis). Statistically, Philippolis is one of our country’s poorest towns, and yet, statistically, it might just have more schoolchildren learning on tablets than any other Karoo town in South Africa. These women are single-handedly ensuring access to world-class education and – as a result – the trajectory of this community, and its children, will change.

I would like to end off by saying that – whilst we are celebrating women as part of this blog – at GWF we are grateful to have men on our team who support a vision for a future that contains many more women leaders, pioneers and innovators.

Kind regards,

Kate Groch

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This is an adult literacy “International Computer Driving Licence” class for adults taking place at the Philippolis Digital Learning Centre. The class is led by Jonita Rakotsoane, a local woman from the Philippolis community, and 69 percent of the spots are filled by women.

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Denise Sharp (on screen) is an education specialist from Central State University in Ohio (USA). After a visit to Hazyview Digital Learning Centre (HDLC), Denise identified an opportunity to support our digital facilitators by curating an online course to support leadership, lesson planning, English second-language, early childhood education and classroom management. Together with Professor Maureen Brustkern, Denise and her team present an online two-hour workshop to the team at HDLC twice every month.

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A four-year-old girl from Mpilo Preschool in Mpumalanga enjoys her first session on a tablet computer. The Hazyview Digital Learning Centre recently extended its reach so that it provides access to adults, primary school children, and now, preschool children as well. Sponsored by a group of Johannesburg-based female philanthropists, the preschool Open Learning programme will reach all the way to Justicia (a village that is on the very edge of South Africa, right on the border of the Kruger National Park).

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Principal Cicilia Sambo of Tfolinhlanhla Primary School was the the first principal to believe in GWF’s Open Learning Academy: she started sending her Grade 4′s to the Academy for supplementary digital, English and math literacy in 2013. Her school is now the top performing school in the district, with Annual National Assessments that far exceed the average for the area.

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How many girls can you count? This is the after-school Open Learning Academy at Philippolis Digital Learning Centre (PDLC) in the rural Free State. These young children from the community spend two hours every afternoon exploring learning (and the world) on tablet computers.

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Switched on! Two young learners from Bergmanshoogte School attend the Philippolis Digital Learning Centre (PDLC) after school earlier in February. For both girls, PDLC is the only access to “always on” Internet and learning apps that they have in the town. They use the centre and its facilitators to improve their English and math, but also to Google for homework and assignment research.

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Gay Sibuyi is from one of South Africa’s most rural villages (her father is a cattle herder). Yet, Gay heads up the adult literacy programmes at Hazyview Digital Learning Centre, has helped to put her brothers and sisters through university and college, and is part of a “Girl Power for Good” initiative that involves her skyping into Florida twice every month.

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Glenrose Mashigo is a full-time Open Learning Academy facilitator from the Tshabalala community. At Hazyview Digital Learning Centre, 75 percent of our team is made up of women. All of them are from the local area, and all of them are passionate about getting kids addicted to learning.

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