What could an ideal Digital African classroom look like?

Like all good ideas for the future, this question is best answered with a two step process:

First, we need a clear picture of where we are.

Then, we need to project the current needs, trends and information into a cohesive picture of where we are headed, and what interventions can truly make a difference, and lead us to the future we imagine.


So, our current picture of education in an African classroom, specifically a South African context, needs to be based on a clear picture of where we are.

I always go back to research, and STATS SA has released our latest statistics, and the picture is a lot brighter than the last census results: South Africans are older, wiser, richer, than in 1996.

Our 2012 census shows that our median age is now 25, up from 22. More learners are in school, an

The main challenge is poverty: this is related to the impact of HIV and Aids – and the increase in orphans: a massive 3 374 971 children under the age of 18 have lost one or both parents, more than double the rate a decade ago. So, one in every five children is an orphan. We have more people who are HIV positive than taxpayers in South Africa.

What does this mean for the picture of classrooms and learning in South Africa? In South Africa, public schooling has traditionally come at a cost to families. School fees have traditionally been a cost to bear by parents. The department of Education has introduced “no-fee” schools, a necessity in our context, and now, according to the SAIRR*, 60% of our public schools do not require school fees in 2010, or in numbers, 14 567 out of 24 532 schools.  Remembering that school uniforms are still a family cost, as well as transport to school, and food at school, are all for the family’s expense.

So, out of ten students in your class, at least 5 will be orphans, 5 or 6 will be HIV positive, and as you go up the education ladder for every 10 learners you have in class, an increasing number will be out of the school system, and with less chance of participating in the economy.

Quality of education is vital to provide opportunities for escaping the poverty trap, and developing the entrepreneurs our economy needs. The World Economic Forum’s annual report on development has recently done an analysis of our results in the quality of science education South Africa in 2012 placed last among 62 countries on the quality of maths and science education. Last year, South Africa was second-last – ahead of Yemen. Media can play a part in finding new ways to access learning and teaching for African classrooms.

Future: Read our next article for the future scenarios of media content for learning.

 Ingrid Bruynse
Co-Founder Media4Learning network.
Ingrid Bruynse will be presenting the project and other teacher innovations in South Africa at the Media & Learning conference in Brussels in November 2012.

* SA Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR)

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