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14 February, 2002

Software donation 'will boost eLearning in the W Cape'

Microsoft's decision to donate software free of charge to 32 000 schools in South Africa is a spectacular example of private/public partnerships at work in education, according to the Western Cape Education Minister of Education, André Gaum.

Addressing the Afrikaanse Handelsinstituut in Bellville today (Thursday, 14 February 2002), Gaum said that the software giant's offer would provide "a tremendous boost to our efforts to bridge the digital divide in the province".

"The donation will make it very much easier for us to use the latest software and hardware in all schools, and to ensure a consistent standard of information technology delivery across the whole education system.

"We have contacted Microsoft, and we will be discussing the details of the offer and how it will be provided shortly."

Gaum was speaking on the topic "Partners for change: the importance of social investment in education".

He said that partners were playing a crucial role in the roll-out of the province's information technology programmes at schools and technical colleges.

"During the course of this year, I will endeavour to coordinate these projects under a single eLearning banner, to add new impetus to our eLearning drive.

"Our existing projects will continue to have their own identity, but they must be coordinated to ensure that they learn from each other, and to ensure that we use our resources as effectively as possible to make the most of the eLearning revolution."

Gaum, who has just returned from the international LearnTec 2002 conference and exhibition in Germany, said that the province would seek to ensure that eLearning in the Western Cape reflected the best international practice.

Key eLearning projects of the Western Cape Education Department (WCED) and the provincial administration include:

  • The Telecommunications Project, which will complete the process of connecting every school in the province to the internet during 2002. About 1100 schools are already linked to the internet. The remaining 470 schools will be connected this year.
  • The Khanya Project, which is developing and implementing innovative approaches to using information and communication technologies to enhance teaching and learning in the Western Cape, particularly in disadvantaged schools.
  • The "Dassie" Project (Distributed Advanced Strategic System for Industrial e-Learning), which will enhance teaching and learning in the province's technical colleges. A consortium of German companies has selected the WCED for cooperation in a pilot project to develop the system, due for completion this year.

Gaum highlighted key areas where the department and the private sector could develop public/private sector partnerships. These included:

  • Coordinating the activities of both the private and public sectors in education to ensure that strategic objectives are met as effectively as possible.
  • Cooperation in the field of vocational training. The WCED's Further Education and Training Directorate has a mechanism for monitoring employer requirements and acting on them.
  • Cooperation in the drive to introduce eLearning in the Western Cape.
  • Seeking opportunities for volunteers with special skills and professional knowledge to play a role by giving extra lessons in schools and technical colleges, and by sharing their expertise in school management and in other ways.
  • Providing opportunities for learners to develop skills by introducing them to the marketplace at businesses and other institutions.
Issued by:
The Communications Directorate
Western Cape Education Department
Private Bag X9114
Cape Town 8000
Tel: (021) 467-2531
Fax: (021) 467-2363
Email: pattwell@pawc.wcape.gov.za
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