Thursday , June 24 2021

Why giving tablets to any South African school is a stupid idea

President Kiril Ramaphos recently said at his SONA address in 2019 that every student in South Africa will have a tablet device within the next six years.

"Over the next six years, we will provide a child in South Africa with digital workbooks and textbooks on a tablet device," the president said.

He added that the government would start deploying devices in disadvantaged schools located in poor communities.

Although the idea may look good on the surface, giving a tablet to every child is not a solution to the problems of education in South Africa – let's say it explicitly, it is a stupid idea.

There is no evidence of improvement

Studies have shown that the provision of tablets and e-readers to learners does not benefit them from a better learning perspective, and introducing devices to students is not an economical solution.

As documented by the education expert Nick SpoolEvidence suggests that providing functional computer labs to all high schools, not every intelligent child, is a much more effective solution.

The "one child device" area has been extensively studied in various developing countries and consistently shows that "technology provision to individual learners is not the most cost-effective way to improve learning outcomes," said Spaull,

In fact, "every country in which it is introduced is considered to be a failure".


The crime problem is another issue, especially in South Africa, which affects the implementation of tablets in schools.

In a perfect world, we could reject the threat of criminals and apply educational plans without fear of being ripped off by bandits – but we are not living in a perfect world.

The threat of IT equipment and hundreds of tablets in stolen schools is high, especially in schools in areas with high levels of crime.

This was the case in January when the new Menzi Primary School, equipped with digital boards and tablets, was robbed within a week of opening.

185 tablets, 8 laptops, 2 projectors, 3 desktops, TV and R500 were stolen.

This is not the first time the intelligent school in South Africa has been attacked by criminals. In 2015 he has been reported Gauteng's Education Ministry withdraws 88,000 tablets from seven municipal schools due to the increase in the number of thefts.

The money and time to deploy tablets in schools just to be stolen days later can be better spent to provide a safe environment for learners to learn.

There are bigger problems

Tablets in schools may eventually become a norm in South Africa, but before that happens, there are many issues that need to be addressed first.

According to News24, when Ramaphosa announced its tablet expansion plan, 4,000 schools are still in use across the country toilets.

Giving school intelligent devices before receiving safe and hygienic washing facilities is called poor prioritization of funds, along with money not distributed first to desks, chairs, textbooks, fans or air conditioners for well-built classrooms in all state schools.

Another hot question is the state of teaching in South Africa, which damages student development.

Granting a tablet to a teacher and teacher will not erase the teacher's inability to master math or to teach a linguistic understanding nor help a child who does not know how to read or write for several years in their school career.

It was in 2018 The reported South African teachers can not pass basic mathematical and English tests.

The majority of teachers who took part in a national curriculum study "failed to identify the basic idea in a paragraph, or to make a simple calculation of mathematics."

The following findings have been observed:

  • 5 out of 22 primary school teachers were able to identify the basic idea in a simple paragraph.
  • 6 out of 22 were able to make a simple calculation in mathematics.
  • Teachers estimate at least 10% for the first language in English and 5% for mathematics.

The allocation of resources for better teacher training and assessment on a permanent basis would therefore be more beneficial for pupils.

The Hardware Factor

Then there are hardware factors and requirements that come with the implementation of tablets.

Tablets for schools will not be iPad Pro, they will be budget or medium-sized devices that target the education sector.

In addition to not having the most responsive touchscreen or powerful processors, budget devices pose many challenges.

Battery life will be a cause for concern as after a year or two of their daily use it is likely to require a battery replacement. Will there be replacement of the battery and will there be a budget for this?

If you do not intend to replace batteries, then every desk in each classroom should have a power point available so that tablets can be charged when needed.

Smart devices will also break or fail, and replaceable tablets should be available shortly. Otherwise, spare parts and repairs will have to be provided.

Another problem is the software. Whether the tablets come with a service contract that will get OS updates and security for their lives?

Even big Android smartphone brands will keep their devices up-to-date with the latest software after launching. The problem became so bad that Google released An Android program in response – promising users at least two years of operating system updates for their device.

With the challenges faced by the South African education sector, the government is trying to solve the problems at the wrong end of the chain.

You do not give an unstable building a new penthouse to stabilize it, first make sure its foundations are healthy.

Now read: Be careful to make these common security flaws in IT

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