A remarkable number of visitors to Londolozi, especially in the last two years, have committed to help us disrupt education.
That’s not something visitors expect to do when they embark on a wildlife journey to Africa.
However, possibly because as global citizens we recognise an education system that has seen little innovation worldwide and is failing our children, visitors have been interested in the “pink education revolutionaries” at our non-profit partner organisation, the Good Work Foundation (GWF).
In fact, they have been so inspired by GWF’s vision for a new order in learning and education, that they have contributed to a movement that we believe will change Africa.
GWF – Now reaching 2,900 children per week
In 2015 the team at GWF received enough financial support (in part through the extraordinarily generous support of Londolozi’s visiting guests, including a targeted crowd-funding campaign) to increase access to digital learning for approximately 2900 public-sector schoolchildren in the rural areas located close to Londolozi.
This was part of an initiative to: (1) Use education technology to dramatically improve basic literacies in under-resourced and overcrowded schools, and (2) Support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) development skills in line with South Africa’s 2030 National Development Plan.
GWF’s existing Hazyview Digital Learning Campus (about 1.5 hours by road from Londolozi), equipped with tablet computers, e-learning software and digitally-trained facilitators, became the hub for seven satellite primary schools, each one of those schools unable to offer digital or even blended learning in the classroom.
The model, named the “Open Learning Academy” and endorsed by local government, had been in a first phase rollout since the end of 2013 and, in September 2015, successfully launched a second phase.
In phase one, grade four learners from the seven satellite schools attended the Open Learning Academy hub every week for a year as part of their weekly lesson timetable. Learners were transported to the hub and received a weekly two-hour blended learning session focusing on English, math, digital and conservation literacy. Take a look:
At the end of a year spent immersed in digital learning, the grade four learners wanted more and so did their teachers who were seeing improvements of up to 37% in English and math. GWF didn’t have the space at the hub, and so the only option was to extend their digital learning programme into each one of the schools.
And so, in 2015, a GWF-qualified digital facilitator, together with a charging trolley full of tablet computers and e-learning software (GWF’s learning lab on wheels), extended the learning environment created at the Open Learning Academy into the primary schools, ensuring on-going learning for grade five learners, and then grade six and seven learners in subsequent years.
Phase two is now ten months old, and this is what has been achieved:
- Provision of access to digital education to 2900 children from Mbombela/Bushbuckridge municipal areas in Mpumalanga. This number will increase to approximately 4000 by the beginning of 2017
- The establishment of a second hub in Mpumalanga, which, after one month of operations, is already partnering with four local schools in one of South Africa’s most rural villages
- Having evaluated the results of satellite school learners, GWF can report a 13% increase in the level of mathematics within a period of six months and 14% increase in the level of English
- The Open Learning Academy has created employment for 11 full-time digital facilitators and three volunteers who are all local people recruited from the local area
- To date, over 600 learners have visited the Kruger National Park as part of conservation education programme. Learners start their conservation learning on tablets, working on interactive iBooks written by Londolozi and GWF
- In 2016, GWF implemented a new programme called “Open Learning Plus”. This is a smaller programme that takes the most talented group of learners who are part of the Open Learning Academy, and provides workshops in the following activities: Robotics, coding, Lego education, music theory and advanced mathematics
- GWF has introduced coding to the Open Learning Academy syllabus. This is the first time that teachers and students from this school district have had the opportunity to interact and learn about coding
The Open Learning Academy is one of two major programmes offered at GWF digital learning campuses. The second programme, the “Bridging Academy”, is a recognised yearlong course that enables rural adults to become proficient in skills that are required in a 21st century workspace.
Celebrating almost-one-year of Open Learning phase two, here’s what GWF CEO, Kate Groch, had to say: “Our programmes are proving that a new, decentralised education model, built on a digital platform, can change Africa and the developing world by allowing rural people access to the new digital marketplace. In developing the model of rural digital learning campuses, featuring the Bridging Academy and the Open Learning Academy, GWF is demonstrating an ability to identify the major pressure points in South Africa’s education system and, using technology, ‘home-grown’ programmes and public-private partnerships, create systemic change.”
To Londolozi’s visitors who have learnt about GWF’s mission and contributed towards it, this is what you have helped to empower. The importance of this mission cannot be overlooked for the rural person whose life will forever change.
At the same time, more and more international interest hovers over GWF, with everyone from policy-makers to teachers and investors asking: “Are we doing enough to imagine a better model of learning for our children and for the children of the world?”