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South African schools reopened in February to welcome pupils to the new academic year, amid concerns for the safety of children and teachers as we continue to fight the second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Thankfully, the roll-out of fibre networks across the country is a beacon of hope for educators, parents, and children in need of some reassurance that pupils can supplement the education they receive in the classroom with a range of online platforms, should the need arise.

“As disruptive as the 2020 school year was, it also presented learners and teachers with digital opportunities to expand the realms of education that may yet contribute to the sustainability and success of primary, secondary and tertiary education in an unpredictable environment,” says Lianne Williams, Head of Marketing at Vuma. “Schools across the board have taken their first steps in the journey towards digital learning, with fast uncapped internet being the key to unlocking the door to the digital classroom.”

Accessing the digital classroom

Loss of teaching time and delayed exams posed considerable challenges for the 2020 academic year. For those who do have access to connectivity, these obstacles can be overcome in 2021 by using a vast range of tools available to make digital learning possible. For the many South Africans who do not have access, it is indeed a crucial goal of stakeholders across South Africa to close this divide and open up the vast array of educational opportunities that exist, to benefit these under-served communities too.

Digital learning resources allow your child to engage with material at their own pace, while gamified digital tools make the process fun at the same time! For instance, WorkSheetCloud sees children competing against their peers across the country, while doing regular worksheets and exam revision throughout the year.  Learners earn coins, unlock avatars and receive heartfelt messages for their achievements, which motivate them to learn more and do better.

The Gauteng Department of Education (GDE), together with the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies, has also contributed to the online learning experience. The GDE Content Platform gives learners and teachers access to a full range of interactive lessons, exam preparation material and enhanced study guides. Best of all, you can connect children to their teachers whenever the need arises thanks to a GDE WebX video conferencing tool built into the platform.

“Digital resources have created additional ways for parents to help fill the education gap created during the pandemic. Online learning material, streaming platforms and interactive sites give parents the reassurance that their children can catch up on lessons that weren’t covered in class, connect to their educators from home and even prepare for exams, all while having fun,” adds Williams.

Much like GDE WebX, there are tons of popular video conferencing platforms available for free to help learners of all ages thrive in the digital classroom. You can use programmes like Microsoft Teams and Zoom to create a positive learning environment in the comfort of your home, while teachers can use Google Classroom to efficiently manage and assess learners’ progress, teach extra lessons and share valuable content.

Children can also form study groups (while practising social distancing) with other learners in their grade, use built-in features like virtual whiteboards to inspire creativity, or even stream lessons on platforms like YouTube, Adapted Mind, and Extramarks.

The role of connectivity in enabling digital learning

The pandemic has presented education systems worldwide with an opportunity to accelerate the adoption of digital learning and connect even more communities to the digital future – and South Africa is among them.

Fast, uncapped fibre to your home and fibre-to-the-school connectivity allow children to experience an uninterrupted learning process at home or school, without being vulnerable to low connection speeds. This connectivity also empowers communities to achieve the extraordinary and access the boundless opportunities of the internet.

“At Vuma, our value extends beyond infrastructure. It reaches ordinary people and empowers communities across South Africa to do more. Our philosophy of ‘if we can, we must’ has been the biggest driver of us rolling out programmes like the Vuma fibre-to-the-schools project, aimed at enabling effective learning through uninterrupted connectivity,” concludes Williams.

If you’d like to find out if fast fibre from Vuma is active in your neighbourhood, visit www.vumatel.co.za.