How Open Learning & Education is Transforming Africa


Here is a concept that is on the brink of changing the face of education in Southern Africa. There is a primary school in the semi-urban town of Shabalala, not far from the gates of the Sabi Sand Wildtuin. 1,400 students. 14 classrooms.

Some learning takes place outside in the schoolyard, but imagine up to 100 students per class and imagine one teacher in that one class.

This young learner attends a public school located 80 kilometres from Londolozi. She shares a class with approximately 39 other learners and - before this week - had never worked on an desktop or a tablet computer.

This young learner attends a public school located 80 kilometres from Londolozi. Before this week she had never worked on a desktop or a tablet computer.

Notwithstanding challenges such as the student-teacher ratio, there is also an urgent need to get these kids digitally literate. Rural educators feel that pressure. For the principle of the school, apart from budget, the problem is threefold:

  • With so little space, where do you put a computer lab?
  • How do you secure the computer lab?
  • How are you going to train your teachers to facilitate digital learning, when many of them are not digitally literate themselves?

Today, there is a solution.

Why can’t the principle of the school “outsource” digital literacy to a high-tech digital learning centre or “Hub” in his town? The Hub is full of the latest technology – tablets, apps, computers, educational software and digital screens.

An "Open Learning" model that can be exported across South Africa.

An “Open Learning” model that can be exported across South Africa. Good Work Foundation believes this model will change the face of education in rural spaces, and they’re already proving this supposition in the communities outside of Londolozi.

But it’s also full of digital facilitators. Adults from the community trained in self-organised learning environments. Trained in maximising learning using technology as a tool.

Teachers of the future implementing learning techniques pioneered at Stanford University.

It’s happening.

Good Work Foundation is in the eleventh month of an “Open Learning Academy” pilot designed to increase access to digital. The model proposes that each Hub can support five satellite schools, 50 teachers and 5000 students. Last week the fourth local school and the 1000th student “plugged” in to Good Work Foundation’s Hazyview Digital Learning Centre.

Hazyview Open Learning Academy Facilitator, Mary-Jane, demonstrates “touch screen” and one student just can’t wait to try.

These two learners from Siyamukela Primary School spent their first day at Hazyview Digital Learning Centre early in June. This was their first interaction with education-based games on a tablet computer.

Rich Laburn
Rich Laburn is filmmaker, photographer and writer who is based at Londolozi Game Reserve in South Africa. Spending his time capturing scenes of the wild and communicating the beauty of the African bushveld, he runs the Londolozi Blog as a way to entertain and engage people wishing to visit these wild lands.
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