Connecting words to their meaning
(Nov. 2022) What’s the point of reading if the words don’t make any sense? This is a major challenge for elementary schools in South Africa. There, four out of five grade 4 students are functionally illiterate, in any language, because they can’t grasp the meaning or visualize what they read.
Kids on their way to school in rural South Africa
To tackle the problem Huawei has teamed up with two local partners to set up DigiSchool. The program provides computers and connectivity to elementary schools that lack them. And it also sends young adult facilitators to the schools to teach the kids how to use the technology so that it helps them become literate.
For anyone used to seeing young children playing with a computer or smartphone, the situation in South Africa is surprising. Kids in many smaller towns often don’t know the first thing about devices. They know they exist, but haven’t had the chance to actually try one.
Facilitator Andres Thabang Phisane with a DigiSchool learner
“They’ve never had access to a computer,” says Gibson Scelo Ngomane, a facilitator at Malekutu Primary school, in the country’s northeast. “You have to start from scratch: this is a mouse, this is a keyboard, this is how to type in your password, how to type in your name.”
But kids being kids, they learn quickly. And before long, the results are dramatic. “Before, they didn’t even want to open a book,” recalls Thembekile Nkosi, a parent with children at Sibuyile Primary School, also in the northeast. “Now, it’s like they can understand everything that they are reading.”
The wider community benefits from having educated children reports Thabang Blessing Dibakoane, a teacher at Malekutu Primary. “These children, they are now teaching their parents,” he says.
Khutso Kgatla shares his new knowledge with his dad
The satisfaction and improved sense of self-worth is obvious in the demeanor of young Khutso Kgatla, a student at Iphuteng Primary. “A lot of things that I’ve learned here, my father doesn’t know,” he says. “If he doesn’t understand, I tell him ‘Dad, we do this and that,’ so in the end, yes, he needs me.”
The facilitators are greatly motivated by the program and the results it delivers. “This is what I’ve been wanting to do, to make an impact in other kids’ lives,” Ngomone says.
Huawei and its two partners share responsibilities in the following way. South African network operator Rain provides 4G and 5G coverage to the schools. Click Foundation, a South African educational NGO, manages the program. And Huawei, as part of its global Tech4All initiative, fully supports 12 of the 100 DigiSchools under the program. This includes providing IT equipment and employing 30 young facilitators. The program was first launched in July 2020.
Thembekile Nkosi, parent: “Now, it’s like they can understand everything that they are reading.”
The way facilitator Mbali Promise Sibisi sees it, digital skills are essential for the kids not be left behind. “The world is moving towards digital learning,” she says. “So the kids need to be ready so that they can conquer the world.”
Watch the videos below to learn more about Digischool. The first clip details the impact of the program. The second one depicts the newfound enthusiasm the kids have for going to school. And the third one is about the facilitators and what DigiSchool means to them.
- Community impact (general overview)
2.Kids talk about the program
3.Facilitators talk about the program