21 November 2012
Dear Minister Motshekga,
iPads to the rescue
On Saturday, exactly 20 years ago, Queen Elizabeth II said, “1992 is not a year on which I shall look back with undiluted pleasure…it has turned out to be an ‘Annus Horribilis’.”
I suspect, as the year draws to an end, you might consider 2012 your ‘Annus Horribilis’. It’s been a tumultuous year of incompetence, cover-ups and non-delivery from your department. Undoubtedly, you’re hoping 2013 will be better – as are the many children who went without textbooks and competent teaching this year.
My son, who writes his final matric exam on Monday, is among the lucky ones who had access to textbooks and, by and large, competent teachers throughout his school career. As I watched him study for his exams over the past six weeks, I sympathized again with the thousands of scholars who are less fortunate – even more so when I noticed the extent to which my son and his friends rely on technology to study nowadays. I describe this in a column in Business Day today. http://www.bdlive.co.za/life/gadgets/2012/11/21/hi-tech-study-no-longer-about-books
Then it dawned on me that this is the perfect opportunity for you to make amends for your department’s poor performance of late. Forget textbooks, Minister, give the kids iPads.
Not only does the device provide access to unlimited information via the internet but, if you establish an effective online education hub, you’ll also be able to give scholars all over the country access to the country’s best teachers. What’s more, not only will you have solved the textbook problem, but you’ll also resolve issues regarding sub-standard teaching.
Of course, the idea is not new: schools throughout India and Australia are using iPads as primary tools of basic education. Google “iPads in education” and you’ll see just how effective it is elsewhere.
If you’d like expert local input on the subject, I’m sure the team at Mxit will oblige. (I mention the organisation’s matric apps in my Business Day column too.)
Perhaps you’ll also visit Disa Primary School in Imizamo Yethu, Hout Bay, and see how teachers there are using technology to excite and educate children. Billed as the country’s most technologically advanced primary school, Disa was officially opened last week by Premier Helen Zille. (I do I hope that that won’t discourage you from visiting).
iPads are expensive? And what about the associated data costs? Yes, of course there are costs and there’s plenty of work to be done. But think big, Minister Motshekga. After all, how much is too much when the education of the country’s children is at stake?
Our future is in their hands – let’s put iPads in theirs.