Media Monitoring Africa (MMA) awards a GLAD to City Press for the publication’s in-depth analysis of the Gauteng department of education’s information and communication technology (ICT) smart schools initiative and some of the challenges facing these schools. All the articles published on 21 May, 2017 were written by Msindisi Fengu and appeared on page 13.
The first story, “A model of hi-tech learning” reports on Ponelopele Oracle Secondary School in Ebony Park, Midrand which was built in 2016 through a partnership between a technology company and the Gauteng department of Education. The article reports that the school, which is one of the department’s first success stories has become a model of how other schools should be preserved. It further unpacks some of the statistical details in the number of schools that have been equipped with smart boards and smart devices such as student tablets for learning since the project started in 2014.
The journalist offers a good balance between the milestones that the department has reached since the project began in the second article, “GP’s tablets go astray”, stating that “of 32 schools that recorded a 100% matric pass rate last year, eight were based in townships where the project had been introduced”. The article however reports that in 2016 ‘82 000 tablets were issued to grade 12 pupils as part of the pilot project, but 9865 were not returned’’. A tracking company contracted by the education department reportedly revealed that ‘the tablets were either stolen from pupils, sold or pawned by pupils on the black market, or offered as collateral to secure loans’. By highlighting the diverse socio-economic issues that pose as risks and challenges to these smart schools – thieves and negligence being the biggest challenges crippling student’s learning – the article challenges the reader to think about how to combat these in order to promote access to new technologies for young people.
The third article, “The risks facing smart schools”, is focused on Meso Thekiso, an 18-year-old pupil at Steve Bikoville Secondary School, who talks about how having a tablet as a schooling resource has changed his schooling experience. He states for instance, that he can now easily access past exam papers, pre-installed lessons and other types of learning materials. He was quoted saying, “I now spend most of my time going through material in my tablet. It also saves me from getting into trouble because, sometimes, when we share the same space as teenagers, we influence each other to do the wrong things and not focus on our studies.”
Accessing Meso, who provides his personal experience as a pupil benefiting from the smart schools initiative, enriches the story with a teen’s perspective. A photograph of Meso on a tablet accompanies the story.
MMA congratulates City Press for highlighting the diverse issues surrounding the implementation of ICT smart schools in Gauteng that affect children’s access to schooling resources. We encourage the publication to continue reporting such issues.
By Phakamile Khumalo
 A GLAD refers to an article where the rights and welfare of children have been promoted