Nestling up against the foothills of the South Africa’s Drakensberg mountains, Sportstec has partnered with Blu Network to provide free-at-the-point-of-use access to digital learning and healthcare materials to learners and educators within the local communities and rural schools.
The Geluksburg Centre
Led by Michael Flockhart, from Sportstec (www.sportstec.co.za), the centre in Geluksburg provides services from early childhood development to homework clubs and health awareness. Using sports as a means to both encourage attendance and to teach behavioural skills, the coaches at Geluksburg are often in the position of being teachers, mentors and homework advisors.
Working with the Mr Price Foundation Schools Programme and Dixons Carphone, the Blu Network team deployed two BluPoint hubs into the community centre at the beginning of October ’16. These hubs are already unlocking a wealth of digital content for:
- the learners who attend the homework club and sports activities
- the mothers that attend the early childhood development sessions
- the community that use the centre for civic engagement and state benefit collections
- the staff members to enhance their training
Increased attendance and improved engagement
Only a month since installation, the coaches are reporting that attendance at the centre has increased and that the learners are excited about the new technology. This had enabled the creation of a self-paced learning environment, whereby learners and educators were able to support their learning at their own pace. This mirrored the findings from our other deployments in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN):
- teacher and pupil attendance increased
- learner results were dramatically improved
- learning methods adapted to now include self-paced learning.
The ability to offline materials to view at home has also been extremely helpful as high data costs relative to income would prohibit these education materials being accessed on the Internet. Sportstec reports an improvement in learner engagement, as the content also stimulates discussions around sexual and reproductive health, thanks to the MTV Shuga soap videos, which was piloted at WhizzKids United Health Academy during the summer.
“… what we’ve found valuable is we’ve wanted to use sport as a vehicle to further enhance education. But since the BluPoint hubs has been here we have actually identified that some of the kids are coming here for education purposes and not necessarily for the sport, which is a turnaround from what we originally anticipated. We don’t need to dangle a carrot now in sport in order for kids to come here.”
~ Michael Flockhart, Sportstec
Fast, free and focused access to content
The coaches quickly found their way around the content and were astonished by the speed of delivery of materials and were thrilled that they did not have to spend any of their expensive airtime to accessing the material, even videos. “It’s wonderful that you can access it without using airtime or data,” said Aubrey. This is particularly pertinent in an areas with low incomes and high unemployment.
The educational content, including Khan Academy and Fuse School, is being used to help learners to improve their reading and to build on their school lessons. Over 7,600 video lessons covering Science, Mathematics, ICT and English are now freely available to the community as well as Wikipedia, and health materials. Mr. Mazibuko, a mathematics teacher, was evidently excited about the clear and engaging video lessons covering his own subject area. “I hear it I forget it, I see it and I remember,” he said, observing that learners are visibly absorbed by the audio-visual material.
Aubrey was particularly impressed by the ability to deliver material via Bluetooth to older feature phones, as many learners bring their own devices to the centre. He also understood the power of broadcasting material to FM radios, as this is a ubiquitous feature in rural South Africa.
BluPoint hubs are going mobile
The team at Geluksburg are hoping in the new academic year to be the first to take BluPoint on the road by fitting it to a 4×4 bus that will travels once a week to 50 rural village schools in the surrounding communities. When the bus arrives at the school community learners and educators will be able to access the digital library or materials. On arriving back at their headquarters materials and data can be synced from the bus to the learning centre. By using this method over 20,000 learners and educators could have access to life changing digital materials without incurring any data charges.
The hope is eventually to deploy into each of the communities. With a BluPoint hub in each school in the area, learners and their families will have access to enriching content all the time.