Johannesburg, South Africa – The Sasol Foundation has partnered with the Department of Basic Education (DBE) and Africa Teen Geeks, to support the provision of free online classes during South Africa’s national lockdown that’s been introduced in response to the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. Africa Teen Geeks is an education-focused non-profit organisation. The Lockdown Digital Classroom initiative is its brainchild.
Since the launch of the initiative, more than 45 000 Grade R to 12 learners have accessed these online lessons, with the majority reporting the courses to be engaging and stimulating. The lessons cover Grade R to 12 curricula and focus on Mathematics, Mathematics Literacy, Natural Sciences, Physical Sciences, Numeracy, Computer Application Technology (CAT), Information Technology, and Literacy.
Head of the Sasol Foundation, Vusi Cwane said the organisation’s involvement in the project stems from its commitment to supporting and enabling access to quality education at all levels and the promotion of excellence in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
“Our focus is to ensure that learners receive the support they need while at home to continue their education, albeit remotely. The Lockdown Digital Classroom initiative enables this and provides learners with a virtual classroom experience that is stimulating and engaging as there’s a higher level of interaction during the lessons, making the experience worthwhile.”
There are two components to the project: the STEM Lockdown Digital School delivered by professionals who are registered with the South African Council for Educators (SACE), and the Lockdown Digital Reading Club. The Sasol Foundation is involved in the former, the STEM Lockdown Digital School, through the provision of financial and non-financial resources.
The Foundation also supports the spirit of the latter element, whose purpose is to encourage a culture of reading during this lockdown. This aspect of the programme uses well-known media personalities as ambassadors to champion this cause. They have volunteered their time for free to read books for learners in Grades R to 3 and do not do any teaching.
“We have a reading club wherein we work with public figures and celebrities who have volunteered their time to read to children. It is imperative to note that this is reading and not teaching to promote awareness of the campaign…,” said Lindiwe Matlali, CEO of African Teen Geeks.
The practice of using ambassadors to promote reading is not unusual, said the Department of Basic Education in its statement.
“The practice of using familiar personalities to drive a campaign is an age-old strategy used to promote worthy causes such as the reading revolution. Both the Department and Africa Teen Geeks have welcomed the interest shown in the initiative and encourages members of the public to continue to focus on literacy and numeracy campaigns,” said Elijah Mhlanga, spokesperson of the Department of Education in the statement.
The virtual classes are an hour-long and take place from 08:00 to 17:00 every weekday. They are accessible at no cost to the learners. They are also recorded and uploaded on the following websites, enabling learners and teachers to watch them again should they need to.
- Sasol in Society: https://society.sasol.com/
- Department of Basic Education: https://www.education.gov.za/
- Africa Teen Geeks: https://www.africateengeeks.co.za/
In addition to being part of the Lockdown Digital Classroom initiative, the Sasol Foundation is also making its catalogue of mathematics, science and technology textbooks available for free online.
The organisation has been working with DBE over the last seven years to develop these textbooks many of which have been digitised and are available for free to be downloaded or read online on the Siyavula, MST Workbooks and Thunderbolt Kids websites.
The Siyavula website has been zero-rated on MTN, Vodacom and Telkom, meaning that learners and parents on these networks will not incur any data costs when reading or downloading the resources online.
The following are textbooks that can be read on the Siyavula platform:
- Grade 7-12 mathematics
- Grade 10 maths literacy
- Grade 4-12 natural and physical sciences
- Grade 10 life sciences
- Grade 10-12 Information Technology (IT)
- Grade 10-12 Computer Application Technology (CAT)
For learners in Grades 4 to7, there is Thunderbolt Kids, which is an interactive online site featuring a cast of fun fictional characters that make learning fun. These focus on various topics in Natural Sciences and Technology. Learners in Grades 7-9 can use the MST Workbooks site, which will take them through their paces in mathematics, natural science and technology.