Bridging the digital divide: VUT empowers Limpopo local high school
By: Qhawekazi Memani – 05 October 2023
Recently, a resolute team of four, led by Mr John Shivambu, a technician at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT)’s Industrial and Operations Management Department, embarked on a mission to Ripambeta High School. Their objective: to introduce teachers and students alike to the world of online teaching and learning.
Giving a glimpse of the school, Mr Shivambu shared that Ripambeta High School is nestled in the heart of the Collins Chabane Municipality in Limpopo Province and serves as a beacon of hope for the local community. Since 2019, the school has been closely aligned with the VUT’s Industrial and Operations Management Department, standing as a vital voice in the advisory committee, providing invaluable insights into the challenges faced by high schools in the region.
He further revealed that the global onslaught of the Covid-19 pandemic did not bypass the secondary education sector, prompting a radical shift in the way teaching and learning were conducted. In response, the government provided Ripambeta High with a vital lifeline: laptops and tablets, setting the stage for a transformative project. Eager to harness this opportunity, the school turned to the Institute for Engineering and Technology Management in the Minerals and Energy Sectors (IEOMME) department for guidance in embracing e-learning.
A New Dawn: Bridging the Digital Divide
On the inaugural day of the program, the team faced the challenges of a remote location, where technology accessibility was not taken for granted. The teachers, many unfamiliar with computers, were warmly welcomed into the digital realm. Professor Thomas Tengen, from VUT, extended his virtual presence to express gratitude and provide an inspiring outlook on the pivotal role of technology in education.
The team demonstrated various Learning Management Systems (LMS), emphasizing the user-friendly nature of platforms like Google Meet and Google Drive. The response was overwhelmingly positive, as teachers quickly grasped the potential of these tools. They learned to create Google accounts, enabling them to seamlessly navigate the online landscape, upload assignments, tests, and engage in virtual meetings.
Empowering Educators for Tomorrow
The second day brought with it a new set of challenges and triumphs. With over 350 eager learners, the team navigated power outages and network difficulties, undeterred in their mission. Career guidance, bursary information, and application advice flowed freely, empowering grade 11 and 12 students to envision their futures.
In cycles, the online teaching team connected with grades 8, 9, and 10. The learners, quick to adapt, embraced the technology with enthusiasm. With guidance, they effortlessly set up email accounts, accessed files on Google Drive, and even engaged in real-time conversations through Google Meet.
Lessons Learned and a Vision for the Future
The outreach project at Ripambeta High School emphasized the importance of ongoing community engagement. It brightened the need for resolute individuals and adequate resources to drive sustainable change. Load shedding emerged as a challenge, prompting a creative response from the team.
The school’s plea for additional resources—computers, office furniture, generators—highlighted the dire need for infrastructure improvements. These requests echo a broader call to action: a collective effort to foster an environment conducive to quality education.
A Legacy of Impact
As the Ripambeta outreach draws to a close, the IEOMME team reflects on the profound impact made. The experience reaffirmed the team’s commitment to extending their expertise to other schools and communities. It also serves as a testament to the potential of technology to revolutionize education in even the most underserved regions.
“In the end, the Ripambeta High School project stands as testament to the transformative power of education. It is a story of a community’s resilience, a school’s dedication, and a team’s unwavering commitment to making a positive difference in the lives of learners. Together, they have embarked on a journey toward a future where every student, regardless of their circumstances, can thrive in a digital world,” concluded Mr Shivambu.