Each school will be provided with a dedicated 1 Gigabit per second line and will be able to choose from a variety of internet service providers for free uncapped internet connectivity. The Internet Service Providers currently on board with the project include Cell C, Cool Ideas and Vox Telecoms with others soon to join the initiative.
VUMA piloted this initiative with Greenside High, Hoërskool Linden and Parkhurst Primary. The response has been overwhelmingly positive.
Pieter Hugo, parent and tech specialist on the governing body at Hoërskool Linden, beams with pride and excitement as he speaks about how the introduction of fibre has benefitted his school, “the bandwidth provided by Vuma is making a big difference. It is an enabler.”
The new and improved connectivity means the school can migrate away from locally hosted services and move their systems into the cloud. They have plans to increase the reach of connectivity beyond their computer centres and have introduced an e-learning tablet system to the grade 8 class.
Hugo says that the financial impact is also significant. “Schools are financially constrained and cannot afford computer-trained IT professionals, infrastructure maintenance and hardware costs. Cloud migration will save time, effort and money, and these savings are made possible because we have fibre.”
Schools are lagging behind in the digital age because the cost of bandwidth has traditionally been so prohibitive. The systems in place at these schools will seem archaic to those in business who take connectivity for granted. It is ironic that in these educational facilities where access could make such an impact, it is so lacking. Niel Schoeman, CEO of Vumatel, argues that “our children are the future and it is vital that we connect them to the information age. We challenge other broadband providers to follow our lead and work together as the private sector in addressing one of South Africa’s key challenges. The incremental cost for telcos to do this for schools are negligible when compared to the potential and fundamental impact it can have.”
Sanjeev Maharaj, the Principal of Parkhurst Primary, speaks of the massive impact that VUMA fibre has had in his school. In 2014, The Click Foundation introduced the Reading Eggs e-learning literacy programme to the school at a time when the school only had access to an ADSL connection. Due to the extensive lag on the connection, instruction lacked flow, resulting in learners getting distracted and not enjoying the full benefit of the programme.
“Since introducing the fibre connection we have found that the learners are getting through a greater number of lessons, much quicker than previously experienced on ADSL,” notes Maharaj.
As a result of the success of the programme at Parkhurst Primary due to improved connectivity, the Click Foundation have donated an additional 20 computers to the school and are currently using Parkhurst Primary as a flagship site to demonstrate the benefits of their literacy programme.
“Without adequate connectivity,” says Maharaj, “none of this would be possible.”
This programme contributes to the enrichment of learning English at the school. Most of the learners do not speak English at home and are only exposed to it at school. The majority of the learners are from Alexandra and Soweto with the remaining children coming from the inner city and surrounding suburbs. The ability for the learners to access this literacy platform is extremely enriching in terms of their English language education. The Click Foundation has also found that when comparing children of the same level and demographics, those attending Parkhurst Primary are able to get through their lessons faster and more seamlessly.
“The introduction of this e-learning tool has also changed the way children learn computer skills,” says Maharaj. “Previously, the focus was on computer literacy, while now the focus is on learning, and computer literacy comes naturally as a byproduct.”
Vumatel has already started introducing fibre to additional schools and aims to provide free high speed connectivity to approximately 80 schools this year, positively affecting around 65,000 learners. The telecoms company is committed to moving South Africa forward and contributing to the objectives of the national broadband strategy – SA Connect. Providing broadband connectivity to schools is one way in which the company is giving back to the communities in which they deploy their network; and they encourage other telecoms companies to do the same.